Skip to main content

Full text of "Discourses : doctrinal and practical ; delivered in Essex Street Chapel"

See other formats

This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on Hbrary shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 
to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 
to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 
are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 
publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 

We also ask that you: 

+ Make non- commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attribution The Google "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http : //books . google . com/ 

nin* "^m 

imii^iif^Y^'ih immjOihiyXijj:^ 

jmifUTXi^ jt YsnjiA^ii^ jicdu^u m. 


M D C C C C X 








*< We are not at maaj, who adolterate the word of God, hot as of 
aiiicerity, hot as of God, as in the presence of God speak we in Christ" 


VOL. H. 







The First Volume having been received 
by the public with the candour which was 
expected, has induced the writer to publish 
a Second Volume of Discourses, which he 
submits, with becoming diffidence, to the 
same tribunal. 

T. B. 

Ettex Houte, 
AjnUM, 1827. 




1 Cor. xiii. 9. 
Far we know in part Page I 



1 Cor. xiii. 9. 
For we know in part 28 



Isaiah, tAv. 7. 
1 form the lights and create darkness : I make peace^ 
and create evil: I, the -Lord, do all these things . 61 



Proverbs, xvi. 9, 
J man's heart deusetk his way, but the Lord diredeth 
Us steps 84 




Rom. ix. 19, so. 
Thou wilt say unto me^ Why doth he yet find faulty for 
who hath resisted his voill ? Nay^ butj O many who 
art thou that repliest against God f Ill 



Rom. xi. 36. 
For of him, and through him, and to him are all things : 
to whom be glory for ever 145 



Rom. ix. 14. 
JVhai shall we say, then f is there unrighteousness with 
God? Godforbid 170 



Job, xii. S3. 
He increaseth the nations, and destroy eth them : He en^ 
largeth the nations ^ and straiteneth them again . SOI 



Acts, XXV. 18, 19. 
Against whom^ when the accusers stood up, they brought 
no accusation of such things as I supposed ; but had 
certain questions against him of their own superstition 
(religion), and of cm Jesus who was dead, whom Paul 
affirmed to be atioe S8S 






Matthew, xxvii. 3. 
Then Judas, who had betrayed him, when he saw that he 
was condemned, repented himself 2i6y^ 





j Matthew, xxvii. 3. 

I Then Judasy who had betrayed him^ when he saw that he 

' was condemned^ repented himself 267 1^ 




Heb. xii. 16, 17. 

Lest there be any fornicator ^ or prof erne person^ as EsaUj 

who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For 

ye hum how that afterward, when he would have «n- 

\ herited'the blessings he was rejected, for he found no 

place of repentance, though he sought it carefuUy 

I with tears S9S 






Geo. viii. SS. 
Whik the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvai, and 
cold and heat, and summer and winter^ and day and 
nightjshall not cease ~S18 




Mark, xii. 32. y 

There is one God, and there is none other but He . 342 1/^ 



1 Peter, iiu 16. 
Having a good conscience 372 k 



Hebrews, x. 22. 
Having out hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience 392 k^ 




Exodus, ill. 14. 

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he 

saH Thus shaU thou say unto the children of Israel, 

I Am haikMsni me unto you 416 



Isaiah, xiii. 19. 
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the 
Chaldees* excellency^ shall be as when God overthrew 
Sodom and Gomorrah 438 



Matt* xxviii. 20. 

And^ hi lam imthyou alway, even to ike end of the 
world 466 




1 Cor. xiii. 9. 
For we know in pari. 

The imperfection of human knowledge 
has been admitted and lamented in every 
age, and by those most, who have been 
acknowledged as the wisest and best of 
mankind. The most celebrated of the an- 
cient sagjBH professed that he knew nothing. 
And the greatest of modern philosophers, 
speaking of a friend, a man of very superior 
talents, who was cut off in the prime of life» 
was accustomed to sav, " had Cotes lived, 
we might have known something:'^ thus un- 

* Sir Isaac Newton is reported to have said this of 
his firieod Roger Cotes, who died, A. D. 1716, set. 33. 
— See Biograph. BrU- 

VOL. 11. B 

2 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

dervaluing his own great discoveries, which 
were the astonishment of his own age and 
of posterity. The apostle Paul, enlightened 
from above with a supereminent knowledge 
of the grace of God to mankind in the gos- 
pel revelation, a mystery which had been 
hidden from former ages and generations, 
and which none of the princes, or, of the 
sages of this world knew, with deep humi- 
lity acknowledges the imperfection of his 
own knowledge of divine things. Now, 
saith he, in the present state of dim twi- 
light, I know in part. And the confession 
thus frankly and openly avowed, by the 
great, the wise, and the good, we may all, 
without any impeachment of individual 
wisdom, adopt for ourselves, Wc know in 
part : We see as in a glass darkly. And 
this acknowledged limitati>dn of human 
comprehension will supply ample materials 
for useful meditation. 

Human knowledge is limited, both in its 
extent and in its degree. 

First The objects of knowledge to man- 
kind are comparatively few. 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 3 

This is owing either to the limitation of 
the faculties, or to the absence and remote- 
ness of the objects of knowledge. 

By the senses onlyi we acquire a know- 
ledge of the external world ; and the organs 
of sense are very limited in their number. 
No reasonable doubt can exist that more 
might have been added had it seemed ex- 
pedient to the wise Author of human nature, 
which would have suggested conceptions 
of objects to which we are now as perfect 
strangers, as a man born blind is to light 
and colours. 

And it would be arrogant to assert that 
the capacity of the human mind might not 
have been increased, and other faculties 
communicated, by which we might have 
been made capable of perceiving and con- 
templating a variety of intellectual objects 
which are now utterly unknown. 

But the faculties which we actually pos- 
sess might impart unspeakably more infor- 
mation than we in fact acquire by them, 
did not the brevity of humkil life, the slow- 
ness of apprehension, the limitation of our 
B 2 

4 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

presence, and of the sphere of our observa- 
tion, and many other circumstances, pre- 
vent the objects of which the mind is capa- 
ble of forming some conception, from fall- 
ing under its cognizance. 

Secondly. Human knowledge is limited 
in its degree. 

We know but little of the objects which 
actually occur to our notice, and to which 
we give the closest attention. There is, in 
fact, nothing, of which it can be truly said, 
that human knowledge is complete. 

1. Our knowledge of the nature and at- 
tributes of God is very imperfect. 

God is incomprehensible. Touching the 
Almighty we cannot find him out. The 
existence of a wise, a benevolent, and a 
powerful Cause, we learn from the works 
of nature, from our own existence, from the 
marks of contrivance in the universe, from 
the exquisite adaptation of means to ends, 
from the obvious preponderance of good 
over evil, and from the powerful, irresistible 
tendencies of things to a better and a hap- 
pier state. 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 5 

But here our knowledge stops. When 
we attempt to form an adequate idea of an 
original, self-existent Being, imagination 
fails, and the faculties are absorbed and 
Jost in the amazing contemplation. The 
nature of self-existence baffles the strongest 
intellect; nor can we form the least con- 
ception how the Divine Being exists, either 
in space or duration ; what could prompt 
him to action ; or in what manner he exerts 
his omnipotent energies. The best of the 
poor and feeble modes in which we can 
frame our conceptions of Deity is, by as- 
cribing to God whatever is excellent in the 
human mind ; whatever does not partici- 
pate of weakness, of dependence, and of 
imperfection ; and by ascribing those attri- 
butes to him in the highest degree. Thus 
we attribute to the Divine Being know- 
ledge and power, wisdom, justice, and be- 
nevolence. But this, it is obvious, must be 
a very imperfect mode of conception ; and 
God may possess attributes without num- 
ber, of which man can form no idea, having 
nothing analogous to them in his own 

6 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

mind. Also the perfections of which we are 
able to form some obscure notion, which 
we actually ascribe to him, and which, in- 
deed, make up our idea of God, exist in 
Him in a degree which far surpasses all 
human comprehension. Goodness, in man, 
is an attribute which prompts to the com- 
munication of happiness : and so is good- 
ness in God. Otherwise, we talk without 
ideas when we ascribe this attribute to our 
Maker. But what the nature of that affec- 
tion is, as it exists in God, and what the 
felicity which he derives from it, is wholly 
incomprehensible. It is higher than hea- 
ven, what can we do ? it is deeper than the 
abyss, what can we know? — Great and 
transcendent Being! what art Thou? How 
infinitely do our conceptions fall short of 
thy boundless perfection ! How much do 
we wrong thee in the sublimest thoughts 
that we can form concerning thee ! 

'' The great first — last ! Pavillioned high he sits 
In darkness, from excessive splendour born. 
His glory to created glory bright, 
A% that to central horrors ! He looks down 
On all that soars, and spans immensity." 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 1 

2. We know but Jittle of the works of 
nature^ and the laws of the external world. 

Our senses inforn) us of the existence of 
external objects, of their several properties, 
of the various combinations of properties in 
the same substance, and of the powers 
which some substances possess of producing 
changes in others. But our knowledge soon 
stops in its career; and the properties to 
which it extends are only a few of the most 
obvious and glaring. The whole philoso- 
phical world has of late years directed its 
combined energies to the investigation of 
the affinities of natural substances, and dis- 
coveries have beeq made, which would as- 
tonish the philosophers of preceding gene-^ 
rations. And no doubt the philosophers of 
a future generation will look back to those 
of the present day as comparatively infants 
in physical science: and will themselves 
likewise, in their turn, be regarded in the 
same light by a more enlightened posterity. 
But if we know so little of the properties of 
things, how much less can we understand of 
the essences^ and the internal constitution of 

8 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

substances themselves. Some philosophers 
have even doubted whether matter has any 
existence at all : while others have main- 
tained that nothing but matter does or can 
exist. The generality believe that matter 
is an extended, solid, and essentially inert 
substance, utterly incapable of active power. 
While some curious observers in modern 
times, have conceived that matter is an es- 
sentially active substance, and that all its 
phenomena are capable of being explained 
by different powers of attraction and repul- 
sion.* What more flagrant proof can be 
required of the imperfection of human know- 
ledge? The intellect of man only skims 
-over the surfaces of things, and when it at- 
tempts to explore essences, it soon loses 
itself in an unfathomable ocean, where it can 
find no bottom. 

The external surface of the globe is far from 
being fully known. The discoveries of mo- 
dern times have indeed been very extensive. 
Much has been done in the last and present 
century for the improvement of geographi- 

* doscovich, Mitchell, Franklin, Priestley. 

Imperfectwn of Human Knowledge. 9 

cal science. The northern and the southern 
hemispheres have been visited, as far as hu^ 
man sagacity, skill, and courage could ad- 
vance ; and islands innumerable, some al- 
most equal to continents, have been disco- 
vered, and traversed, and even colonized : 
yet still much of the terraqueous globe re- 
mains unknown. The interior of the great 
eastern and western continents has hitherto 
been very imperfectly explored, and ages 
will probably elapse before the face, and 
climate, and natural divisions of those im- 
mense regions are distinctly ascertained. 

The vegetable productions, and the animal 
inhabitants of the earth, are still less known 
than the distinctions of its external surface. 
The infinite varieties of the vegetable spe- 
cies, the curious organization of their parts, 
the principle of life, the manner of growth, 
the various uses of the different classes of 
vegetables, whether for building or clothing, 
for ornament or strength, for food or medi- 
cine, for preserving or destroying life, are 
in a great measure unknown : and though 
every day produces new discoveries, and 

1 In^erfectim of Human Kmvdedge. 

adds something to this department of human 
knowledge, it still remains very limited, 
uncertain, and obscure. 

Equally, or rather much more circum- 
scribed, is our knowledge of the animal crea- 
tion. Of the various tribes of animated be- 
ing which inhabit the air, the earth, and 
the water, few comparatively fall under the 
cognizance of man. And of these few bow 
little is certainly known ! The skilful pro- 
fessors of anatomy have discovered the ge- 
neral structure of the animal ceconomy, 
and the use of many of the principal parts 
of the living system, so as to call forth the 
admiration of the contemplative mind, and 
to bespeak theadoration of the great Author 
of the curious frame, for the manifestation 
of his glorious attributes, in the wise contri- 
vance of the organs of sensation, and in the 
exact adjustment of the^tructure of the ani- 
mal to the element in which it lives, to the 
condition in which it is placed, and to its 
defence from the dangers to which it is ex- 
posed. But human sagacity is soon baffled 
when it attempts to explain the nicer move- 

Impetfection of Hutnan Knowledge. 1 1 

ments of the animal machine, or even to 
examine into the structure of some of the 
nobler parts. The organization of the brain, 
the principles of life, of sensation, and of 
muscular motion, are all incomprehensible. 
They are subjects concerning which the 
knowledge of the philosopher scarcely ex- 
ceeds that of a child- The same observa* 
tion applies to those instinctive principles 
which are so conspicuous in the brute crea- 
tion, and so essential to the preservation of 
life and the continuance of the species : in 
many cases so much above, and in many so 
much below the faculty of reason. 

But if our knowledge is so imperfect of 
those objects which exist upon the super- 
ficies of the earth, and which, as it were, 
obtrude themselves upon our notice, what 
can we be expected to know of what is 
passing beneath its surface ? The most stu- 
pendous excavations of human art penetrate 
but a very little way into what may be 
called the external rind of this capacious 
globe: and here we are soon lost in a world 
. of wonders. By what tremendous explo- 

1 2 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

sion the shell of the earth has been broken 
and dislocated,* so that its once regular 
strata have been burst asunder and heaved 
in every possible direction, is a tale that no 
history can unfold, and a phenomenon 
which no philosophy can explain. Nor can 
human sagacity acquire any knowledge of 
the various and wonderful processes which 
are continually carrying on in the bowels of 
the earth, and of the formation of metals, 
marbles, and gems, and all other mineral 
substances, of which many have been dis- 
covered and applied to various important 
uses, and many more doubtless remain 
hitherto unknown. 

The ocean is an abyss of unexplored won- 
ders : abounding with an infinite variety of 
vegetable productions, and swarming with 
myriads of inhabitants of various magni- 
tudes and powers, of different orders and de- 
grees : some, perhaps, approximating to the 
human form, and to rational existence; 
others expanding to vast and enormous 
bulk, which nevertheless revel and sport at 

« See Whitehant's Theory of the Earth. 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 13 

their ease in the trackless regions of the 
waters, the greater part far beyond the 
knowledge and the control of man. In 
a word, wherever we turn our eyes new 
scenes of wonder present themselves to 
our regard. Every hill and every valley, 
every fountain and every field, every tree 
and every plant, every blade of grass, every 
drop of water, and every grain of sand, is 
pregnant with wonders too great for man 
to unfold. 

That beings, who possess a knowledge 
so very contracted of the limited spot in 
which they are destined to reside, should 
be able to extend their views so as to form 
any just idea of the system of worlds with 
which they are surrounded, and even to 
enlarge their conceptions so as to obtain a 
glimpse of the admirable structure of the 
universe itself, is truly wonderful ; and it 
is astonishing to think to what a variety of 
particulars, and to what great extent and 
certainty this sublime science is carried; 
so that the structure of the solar system, 
the number, the distances, the situations, 

14 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

the magnitudes, the motions, the mutual 
aspects and bearings, the direct and dis- 
turbing influences of the heavenly bodies 
upon each other, and the laws by which 
each and all of them are governed, are 
calculated with mathematical precision ; 
and, from what is known, it is justly con- 
cluded that the immensity of the universe 
is proportionate to the immensity of the 
power, the wisdom, and the benevolence of 
its divine Author. 

But when we compare the circle of light 
with the surrounding circle of darkness; 
when we contrast the little that is known 
with the immensity that is unknown, we 
soon shrink into our original insignificance, 
our pride is humbled to the very dust, and 
we, with shame, recall our eulogiums upon 
the extent of human knowledge. 

The portion of creation to which our 
personal observation extends bears so 
scanty a relation to the unbounded uni- 
verse, that, were the whole of it annihi- 
lated, it would no more be missed by an 
eye which could comprehend the whole. 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 15 

than a grain of sand upon the shore, or a 
drop of water in the ocean : and where 
human knowledge is most extensive, it is, 
in fact, little better than splendid igno- 
rance. Reason and analogy teach that the 
planetary worlds are habitable like the 
earth, and that every fixed star is the 
sun and centre of a system of inhabited 
worlds; and no doubt every planet con- 
tains an immense variety of productions 
adapted to the nature, circumstances, and 
wants of its various inhabitants : but what 
these productions are, and what kind of 
beings inhabit the numerous systems which 
occupy, and, if I may so express it, which 
throng unbounded space, we may not pre- 
sume even to conjecture. That the inha- 
bitants of the planetary worlds are, in per- 
sonal structure, and in the constitution of 
their nature, something similar to those 
which reside on the surface of this globe, 
we may, perhaps, be allowed to surmise, 
because the provision which is made for 
their accommodation, t>y the diurnal and 
annual revolutions of their planets, and by 

16 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

the supply of moons and rings to those 
which are most remote, would be useful to 
beings similarly constituted to mankind, 
if such resided there ; but this is the utmost 
limit to which we are warranted to ad- 
vance. All beyond is dim conjecture and 
midnight darkness. 

3. All the knowledge which can be at- 
tained of human nature is very imperfect, 
and man is an inexplicable mystery to 

We are fearfully and wonderfully made, 
and there is nothing in the universe which 
is less known to man than man. 

In the first place, we know compara- 
tively little of the structure of the body. 
Though many things are already disco- 
vered by the observation of the philoso- 
phical anatomist, and the science of the 
human system is continually improving, 
much still remains to be discovered ; and 
there are many important parts of the cor- 
poreal ceconomy, the contexture and uses 
of which have hitherto escaped the most 
curious, accurate, and diligent research. 

Impeffection of Human Knowledge. 17 

The vital motions^ upon the regular con- 
tinuance of which existence depends, and 
which are wholly, or chiefly involuntaryt 
are not understood. The contraction and 
dilatation of the heart, the heaving of the 
lungs, the circulation of the blood, the se- 
cretion of the fluids, the phenomena of di- 
gestion and nutrition, are processes of the 
most important nature, which are conti- 
nually going on in the living man, essential 
to his existence, but independent on his 
will, and absolutely beyond the reach of 
his faculties. 

The principle of life, whatever it be, or 
wherever it resides, eludes, by its subtilty, 
the most vigilant attention of the human 

Still less can we comprehend the prin- 
ciple of perception, that principle which dis- 
tinguishes the animal from the inanimate 
creation : the primary faculty of mind, 
which lies at the foundation of its sublimest 
powers, of imagination, of sensibility, of 
genius^ of intellect, that which discerns all 

vou II. c 

18 Imperfection of Human Knamkdge. 

things is utterly incapable of discerning 
and comprehending itself. 

Whether perception be a simple or a 
complex principle; whether it be the pro** 
perty of an extended or an inextended sub«- 
stance; whether of a material or an im- 
material subject ; whether it be the won- 
derful result of soma curious organieal 
structure, or a superadded and iipplaiited 
priDQiple; what its seat in the corporeal 
system; how it is connected with the 
body ; in what manner it acte upon it, or 
is affected by it? These are questions to 
which no certain, aod to a thoughtful and 
inquisitive mind> oo satisfactory answer 
has yel; been returned. 

Whether the human being is an untform 
substance, or whether, as is commonly be- 
lieved, it be a wonderful con^foun4 of two 
different substances, which have no pro- 
perty in common, is a problem which few 
considerate persons will regard a& com- 
pletely solved. 

Impressions upon the organs of sense 

Imperfection of Ituman Knowledge* 1 9 

excite correspondetit mental perceptions, 
over which the mind has no power; and 
which it cannot, under the existing circum- 
stances, refuse; which it cannot change, 
nor diminish, nor increase ; but which will 
continue as long as the impression conti^ 
nues upon an organ capable of receiving 
it This is the law of human nature. But 
how It is, that impressions upon the organs 
of sensation^ producing certain motions in 
the sensory nerves, should thereby .excite 
correspondent feelings in the mind, feelings 
to which they bear no resemblance, and 
for the production of which they appear to 
possets no effi€iency>Js a case which has 
never yet received a satisfactory solution. 

The mind wUk to move ai limb, and the 
volitiofif is instantly obeyed. The nerve 
follows the direction of the wil), the muscle 
of the nerve, and the limb of the muscle. 
The mind, the directing power, is totally 
ignorant of the whole process. It is a 
bimd musician, performing upon an instru- 
ment of zt thousand strings, and, though 
striking at mnNion, never failing to strike 


30 Impetfectum of Human Knowledge. 

the proper chord, and to preserve the har- 
mony of the machine. There is no mis- 
take. The nerve, the muscle, the limb, 
the joint that is required, instantaneously 
performs its office in a way which no phi- 
losopher can explain. 

By the aid of the brain, that curious and 
inexplicable organ, immense stores of ideas 
and words are treasured up in the mind, 
some of which are continually, and invo- 
luntarily presenting themselves to the at- 
tention, while we remain in a state of vigi- 
lance. Others again wait till they are 
summoned by voluntary recollection. If 
the brain be relaxed by disease, or injured 
by a blow, the ideas are obliterated, or 
thrown into confusion. But a healthy 
state of the intellect and the memory re- 
turn with the health of this noble and im- 
portant organ. The fact we know, the 
cause is inexplicable. 

Ideas and sensations, after having been 
impressed together a sufficient number of 
times, cohere and coaksce with each other; 
so that one cannot appear without the 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 2 1 

other; and by degrees considerable num- 
bers are united, and blended together so as 
to form one complex feeling. This impor- 
tant power, or rather this law of the hu- 
man mind, to the existence of which every 
day's experience bears testimony, is the 
foundation of memory, of recollection, of 
intellect, of affection and motive, of ima- 
gination and genius, of all the active 
powers and intellectaal energies of man, 
of habit, of character, of moral principle, 
of piety, virtue, and happiness. In what 
manner this law of nature operates, by 
what energy or medium ideas, in them- 
selves distinct, are made to unite and blend 
with each other, is a mystery beyond the 
reach of human comprehension. It is like 
the attraction of cohesion in the natural 
world. It binds and cements all things, 
but its nature eludes all research. 

During the state of vigilance the mental 
powers are in constant exercise. The 
senses, the memory, the recollection, the 
intellect, the imagination, the affections, 
the moral sense, all, in their turns, are 

22 Impeffeotian of Human Knowledge. 

called forth to action. But in a few hours 
the machine is exhausted, its springs are 
relaxed, they require fresh winding up; 
and the state of sleep supervenes to refresh 
and to invigorate the wearied powers. 
The intellectual, and the active principles 
are for a time suspended. But how they 
cease to act ; and how, after having been 
suspended, they resume their functions, is 
a fact which we cannot explain. 

In passing from the state of vigilance to 
that of sound sleep, in which all the facul- 
ties are suspended, and the perception of 
duration is lost; and in the return from 
sleep to vigilance again, the mind finds 
itself in a state in which imagination alone 
seems to possess boundless sway, and rea- 
son, memory, and sometimes even the 
moral feelings themselves are suspended. 
Ideas are presented without any effort 
of the will, or any external impi^ssion. 
Scenes that have long been passed, and 
persons who have loug been deceased, are 
revived, and a state of things the most pre- 
posterous is oiten set before the mind, in 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. S3 

which it acquiesces without reluctance^ 
and which it admits without objection^ 
What that state of the system may be 
which gires birth to these impressions, and 
which introduces this peculiar state of 
mind, is mysterious and inexplicable. 

On the state and structure of the brain 
depend the developement, the exercise, 
and the actual state of the reasoning 
powers. Some imperceptible} difference 
in the constitution of this delicate organ 
constitutes the main distinction between a 
philosopher and a brute — between a New-' 
toti and an idiot. Let some minute, in- 
discernible alteration occur in the internal 
structure, or in the vascular state of this 
delicate substance, and the man of talent 
becomes a raving lunatic-^the philosopher 
who astonished the world by the magni- 
tude and variety of his discoveries, is trans- 
formed into a child ; and the man, the ex- 
tent of whose genius, or the point and 
delicacy of whose wit were the delight and 
wonder of all who conversed with him, 
sinks into a dotard and a driveller. Such 

24 Imperfectioti of Human Knowledge. 

is the infirmity of human nature. Upon 
such a slender thread do the most splen^ 
did talents depend.. Such is the narrow, 
the mysterious, the incomprehensible limit 
which separates between the wise man and 
the fool. 

The whole man is continualbf changing. 
The body passes from infancy to childhood, 
from childhood to youth, from youth to 
manhood, from manhood to declining life, 
and from decline to decrepitude, and some, 
who are most competent to judge, have 
computed that every particle of the corpo- 
real system is changed repeatedly in the 
course of three-score years and ten. 

And as far as we can judge, the sentient 
principle, what we call the mind, is equally 
mutable with the body. All that we know 
of mind is a system of ideas, of recollections, 
of intellectual and moral feelings and ha- 
bits. We can comprehend no more of the 
essence of mind than we do of matter. 
But there is no greater difference between 
the body of an infant, and the various forms 
which the body assumes in its passage to 

Impeffection of Human Knowledge. 25 

decrepitude, than there is between the sys- 
tem of ideas and feelings of the child, and 
those of youth, of manhood, and of de- 
clining years. If, then, the body changes 
in every part in its passage through a 
lengthened life, we have the same reason 
to conclude that the mind undergoes a si- 
milar and equal change, and yet the con- 
scious SELF remains unchanged. The same 
in youth as in infancy, in manhood as in 
youth, in decrepitude as in vigorous man- 
hood. In the entire change of body and 
mind, if such change actually takes place, 
as in the immutable identity of both. In 
what does this personal identity consist ? 
What is it that constitutes the conscious 
self through all the vicissitudes of human 
esistence ? Of the fact we are assured ; but 
of the mode we are utterly ignorant 

Finally, man dieth and wasteth amay: 
Man giv^th up the ghost, and where is he ? 
After the lapse of years, at the destined pe- 
riod, fixed in the immutable counsels of 
heaven, the principle of life withdraws, 
and with it the power of perception, of me- 

36 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

mory, of intellect, of imagination^ of habit, 
of affection, and of moral conduct The 
active, the intelligent, the amiable and 
useful, the pious and benevolent human 
being, becomes a lifeless, senseless, motion- 
less mass of clay. Of this awful change 
our knowledge at present is incomplete* 
What is death? How is it produced ? How 
are the vital powers extinguished; and 
what is the state of being which immedv- 
ately succeeds? Is the vital principle to^ 
tally lost ; or does it continue to subsist in 
some new and untried state of existence ? 
And if extinct, is it possible that it should 
be kindled again? is there any reason to 
expect a renovation of life ? any faint hope 
that, in the revolution of ages, even though 
at some very distant period, there may be 
a restoration to percipient, active, happy 
existence ? 

Ah I when sbaD spriog visit Hie nioiildkriiig urfr ? 
Abl- when shall it dawn on the night of the i^rave? 

These are questions to which the light 
of reason and philosopl^, and the voice of 
nature can give no clear and satisfactory 

Imperfection of* Human Knowledge. 27 

answer. And, if, upon these interesting 
and momentous subjects we entertain any 
rational and cheerful hope, we are wholly 
indebted for it to the gospel of Christ, which 
hath abolished death, and brought life and 
immortality to light. 



1 Cor. xiii. 9. 
For we know in part. 

In illustrating this declaration of the 
apostle, which, though not gratifying to 
human vanity, asserts a fact which can be 
denied by none, and is most readily ac- 
knowledged by those who excel most in 
wisdom and in science; it has been ob- 
served in a former discourse, that human 
knowledge is limited both in its extent and 
in its degree, that the objects of knowledge 
are comparatively few, and that we are but 
imperfectly acquainted with the few things 
which fall under our notice. 

In our enlargement upon the latter topic 
it was remarked, that our conceptions of 
the nature and attributes of Grod are very 

Impetfection of Human Knowledge. 29 

limited — that we know but little of the 
works of nature, and of the phenomena and 
laws of the external world — also, that our 
knowledge of the constitution of human na- 
ture is very obscure, and that man is a mys- 
tery to himself. I add, 

4. That we are in a state of great igno- 
rance with respect to mankind in general, 
and to those with whom we associate in 

We are very imperfectly acquainted with 
the natural history of man. The question 
has been warmly agitated, whether the hu- 
man race are descended from one original 
pair, or whether there may not be di£ferent 
and distinct species of human beings, as of 
other animals which inhabit the terraqueous 
globe : and whether the differences so ob- 
vious to the senses in the form, the colour, 
the intellect, and the temper of the different 
nations of mankind, are to be attributed to 
an original difference in the constitution of 
nature, or to a diversity of climate, of diet, 
of education and habit, and of their political 
and moral state. 

so Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

Of the cwil history of mankind little can be 
known with certainty. Of the ancient history 
of nations it has been observed, satirically 
indeed, but not altogether without founda- 
tion, that it is rather the record of what men 
have agreed to believe, than of real fkctB. 
The records of the Hebrew nation are pro- 
bably those which have been preserved with 
the greatest fidelity : yet the earlier part of 
Jewish history, like that of other ancient 
nations, is so involved in allegory and fable, 
that it is not always easy to discriminate the 
truth. Of the majority of nations, even of 
those which are most civilized, and have 
been the longest so, the origin is involved in 
obscurity inextricable, and the date of gt3- 
nuine and credible history has bee» com- 
puted by some judicious persons b^ nfot ex- 
tending farther back than to a series of two 
thousand years. We hear, indeed, of hkto- 
ties of eastern nations of much earlier date, 
but till such histories are produced, and (aid 
open to public inspection, amd til) they are 
subfected to the severe test of ciritieal in- 
quiry, a wise man will suspendr his ftiith in 

In^tfection of Human Knowledge. 31 

them, and will rather judge from facts that 
are known, than from those which are still 

The origin of many of the most important 
art$ is involved in great obscurity. Among 
these may be reckoned the structure of Ian* 
guage, the art of alphabetical writing, and 
that of decimal arithmetic. The history of 
these inventions, which in ingenuity and 
usefulness far surpass all modern discoveries, 
is totally unknown ; and that which requires 
the utmost exertion of the most powerful 
genius of the most enlightened age, to de- 
velope and to comprehend, appears to have 
been a discovery of the darkest and rudest 
period of the world. 

Our knowledge of the social and political 
Uaie of the world is very limited. What 
multitudes are there of barbarous tribes^ 
who inhabit or roam over the vast interior 
of the eastern and western continents, which 
are hardly known even by name I And 
from political motives, we are restraiaed 
from intercouiise with some nations whoi 
hav« attained a considerable degree of eivi-- 

33 Imperfection of Human Knowledge., 

lization. Of the interior state of nations 
between which the most free and unreserved 
intercourse is allowed, little can be known 
by the generality of mankind ; and the fo- 
reign and domestic policy of states which 
are most renowned for wisdom, are often 
the reverse of that which true wisdom would 
dictate, or which human prudence would 

Men know but little of each other as in- 
dhiduaU : it is often difficult to form a cor- 
rect judgment of those with whom they 
principally associate, and are most inti- 
mately conversant. The human faculties 
take different directions, and many, who 
upon some subjects will reason with the sa- 
gacity of angels, will talk upon others with 
the ignorance and simplicity of children. 
Hear an individual converse upon history, 
upon philosophy, upon science and the arts, 
you are astonished at the acuteness of his 
intellect, the force of his reasoning, the ac- 
curacy of his discrimination, the justice of 
his conclusions. But listen to the same in- 
dividual discoursing upon religion, the most 

Impetfectwn of Human Knowledge. 33 

reasonable, the most important of all topics 
which can engage the attention, and what 
do you hear? Assumptions the most ab- 
surd; arguments the most futile; decla- 
mations the most irrelevant; and conclu- 
sions the most contradictory and erroneous, 
at which even a child would blush. And 
all this carried on with the most perfect 
seriousness and solemnity. You would 
say it is impossible he should be in earnest; 
but this is not true ; he believes, often at 
least, what he affirms. You conclude that 
he is bereft" of his understanding. No. 
Upon other subjects he is as reasonable *as 
ever; but'his religion he has taken upon 
trust : he has never examined it ; and the 
dark cloud of prejudice envelopes and ob- 
scures the most powerful intel lect. In fi ne, 
few are so grossly ignorant as not to excel 
in something; and fewer still are those 
mighty minds which can grasp the whole 
circle of science, or which are uniformly 
consistent with themselves. 

Mankind are still more liable to error in 
forming an estimate of character. So va- 

VOL. 11. D 

34 Iv^^erfectkm of Human Knowledge. 

rious and CQipplicajted are the motives to 
human action, .th»t it is extremely. diffiQute 
even for the most attentive and reflectii^ 
person to analyse itt aU cases the principles 
of his own conduct; and a wise man will 
be suspicious of hiiDsel£ Much leas is it 
possible for any one to ascertain the pre- 
cise motive by which another is govwned. 
Licast of all can men judge with precision 
of that state of mind, that system of har 
bits, that complex association of afFectioosr 
which constitute the human character^ 
Hence it is that the most ^roneous judg- 
ments are often formed of moral worth. 
Hence it is that one man is often regarded 
as eminently virtuous, whose heart iS: a 
stranger to every valuable moral principle ; 
while another is suspected and condemned, 
whose condiict is the result of motives the 
most honourable and pure. 

Finally, men are very ignorant of the 
portion of harness or misery which falls to 
each other's lot. We see one in possessioa 
of health, of vigour, of opulence of pros- 
perity, surrounded with every domestic 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 35 

comfort, endued with the finest intellectual 
talents and attainments^ the admiration 
and delight of all utrho know him. We 
pronounce that man happy ; but could we 
discero all that passes in his mind> we 
might perhaps discovery that, in the midst 
of laughter the heart is sorrowful; that he 
is a prey to care and grief, and that some 
venomous canker corrodes his felicity at 
the root We see another poor, despised 
and forsakeii, helpless and infirm, destitute, 
as we imagine, of all that can make life 
worth eirfoyrag. We pity him as the most 
wMehed of mankhid. But^ could we look 
into the heart, we should discov6r it to be 
fbtt of peace, of resigofation, of cofifidence 
in the Almighty, of frtous gratitude^ of glo- 
rious hope. In true happiness he far ex- 
ceeds ^ his prospeitoiM neighbour. The beg- 
gar at the rich man*s gate,' covered with 
MreSy who is the care of angels aiid the fa- 
vourite of heaven, is in a state far prefer- 
able to that of the rich voluptuary, who 
regards hw With disdain, and who grudges 
him l!h« crumbs which fait from his table. 


36 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

Upon the whole, though it would be the 
extreme of folly to maintain that any one 
can be happy who is totally destitute of all 
external comfort, yet, such is the pliancy 
of the human mind, that it adapts itself 
much sooner than could be expected to 
any tolerable state of external enjoyment 
Few are the external ingredients which are 
essentially requisite to happiness; and 
hence arise the erroneous judgments which 
are so frequently passed upon the state and 
condition of man. 

5. Men are very ignorant of the dispen- 
sations of Divine Providence ; and the judg- 
ments of God are a great deep. 

Of the divine government we see enough 
to satisfy the candid and inquisitive mind 
that the result of it is a great preponde-* 
ranee of good, and that the natural irre- 
sistible tendencies of things are to improve- 
ment, and to still higher degrees of virtue 
and happiness. This is the only satisfac- 
tory evidence which we have of the divine 
benevolence; for no metaphysical argu- 
ment, be it ever so ingenious or refined. 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 37 

can prove to the satisfaction of a sober and 
Feflecting mind that God is good, if it were 
evident, that upon the whole, evil predomi- 
nates in his works. We must, therefore, 
in all our reasonings, assume the principle 
that God is perfectly good, and, at the 
same lime, that he is all wise and powerful : 
so that the Supreme Being is ever pursuing 
the best ends, the virtue and happiness of 
lus creatures, by the best possible means : 
by those which are most efficacious and 
best adapted to the accomplishment of his 
purpose. But when we consider the divine 
dispensations in detail, we shall immedi- 
ately discover that they are far beyond the 
reach of human sagacity ; and that an in- 
sect might more easily judge of the parts 
and proportions of a vast and magnificent 
edifice, than that man, the offspring of 
the dust, should comprehend the infinite 
plan of Providence, the works and the dis- 
pensations of God. 

That eoiU natural and moral, is unavoid- 
able in the works of God, is a problem of 
very difficult solution. If we see that^ in 

38 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

some cases, evil is productive of good ; if 
af&iction humbles, and softens, and puri- 
fies the heart; if injustice gives birth 
to meekness, to forbearance, to fortitude, 
to the subUme virtues of love to enemies, 
of requiting and overcoming evil with 
good, and to the generous resolution of re- 
sisting oppression, and of protecting and 
defending helpless, feeble, and injured in- 
nocence, and in this way becomes the 
means of perfecting the character, and ele- 
vating human nature to the most exalted 
height of virtue and piety : it may still be 
asked, might not an equal sum of virtue 
and happiness be produced in which there 
should be no mixture of evil ? and, though 
we instantly and peremptorily answer. No, 
yet it must be owned that this confidence 
does not arise from any clear perception of 
the fact, but solely from a firm belief in the 
infinite benevolence, and power, and wis- 
dom of God, which could never choose evil 
for its own sake, nor execute its purposes by 
means of evil, when good was equally in 
his view and in his power. 

In^perfectum of Human Knowledge. 39 

If QoA be just, he will not make exis- 
tence a curse to any of his creatures. And 
yet, even among the brute creation, which 
are incapable of moral turpitude, we some* 
times see cases of suffering, to all appear- 
ance preponderating over the enjoyments 
of their transitory existence. 

That human beings, reasonable crea- 
tures, moral agents, who are placed in a 
state of mutual dependence, who are sus- 
ceptible of kind and generous feelings, 
wbone mutual good offices contribute in so 
great a degree to each other's happiness, 
wbow chief felicity arises from doing good 
and making others happy, that beings so 
constituted, instead of following the high 
and generous impulses of their moral na- 
tare, should so frequently hate and injure 
each other, and should even place their 
gkMry in mutual destruction, is a pheno- 
menon in the moral government of God 
whkih often occasions perplexity to the 
[Hous and thoughtful mind. 

The ptaperiii^ of vice — ^tbe afflictions of 
xnrtue — ^fche viride diffusion of error, super- 

40 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

stition, enthusiasm, and fanaticism — the li- 
mited prevalence of truth, the almost in- 
surmountable obstruction to its progress, 
and the cruel persecutions of its advocates — 
the universal dominion of decUh — ^the mor- 
tality oi infants — the removal of the zme, 
the benevolent, and the useful, in the me- 
ridian of life, and the long protracted years 
of the infirm and useless, and still more of 
the rsncked and injurious — ^the prevalence 
of tyranny and oppression — the wanton 
and outrageous clamours, and the frantic 
opposition which is often made to the 
efforts of those exalted patriots, of those 
generous benefactors of the human race, 
whose ardent ambition it is to enlighten 
the understanding and improve the con- 
dition of mankind : these, and many others 
are cases of inexplicable difficulty, under 
the divine government, which the wit and 
wisdom of man in vain attempts to unravel 
and explore, O God ! " verily thou art a 
God, who hidest thyself from us." 

6. We are ignorant of many things which 
are connected with divine revelation. 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 4 1 

The general design of the Christian reve- 
lation is sufficiently obvious ; and the evi- 
dence upon which it rests, whether histori- 
cal, prophetic, or internal, is in general suf- 
ficient to afford satisfaction to the serious 
and inquisitive mind. To affirm the con- 
trary would be to charge God with foolish- 
ness, in not having selected means adequate 
to the accomplishment of his designs. There 
are, however, some things relating to the 
Christian religion which are hard to be un- 
derstood, and concerning which it may 
truly be said, that we only know in part. 

The evidences of the divine original of 
the Christian religion themselves are not so 
distinct ^nd full, so clear and commanding as 
many would antecedently have expected. 
We have, indeed, no right to prescribe to 
Infinite Wisdom ; but if it be allowed, as 
indeed it must, that it would have been in- 
consistent with the proper discipline of ra- 
tional and moral agents, and contrary to 
the analogy of the divine government, that 
any, the most important moral and religious 
truth, should be accompanied with such 

42 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

bright ^d dazzling evidence as would com- 
mand attention, and extort assent from the 
inattentive and supine; yet perhaps it 
might have been natural to expect, that 
the kind and degree of evidence would be 
such as to exclude all painful doubt and 
anxiety from the mind of the humble and 
i^cere, of those whose only object, whose 
ardent wish is the discovery of truth. And 
though it cannot be denied that the evi* 
dence, to every reasonable and upright 
mind, if well understood, is in fact so cogent 
as to produce a clear conviction that it 
must be the truest wisdom to assume the 
truth of Christianity as a practical principle, 
and to act upon the presumption that its 
doctrines are true, that its promises will be 
accomplished, and its threatenings fulfilled ; 
yet, notwithstanding this concession, who 
that has thought deeply and seriously upon 
the subject, can truly say that his mind has 
been at all times free from painful doubts 
and suspicions ? and who that combines a 
smajl portion of candour with a little know- 
ledge of the world, can hesitate to admit 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 43 

that there have been some virtuous and in- 
quisitive minds who^ after much serious 
investigation^ could not satisfy themselves 
diat the Christian religion derives its origin 
immediately from heaven. These cases 
are^ I believe, not numerous, but as for as 
they go they prove the limitation of human 
knowledge, and the power of prejudice to 
bandage the intellectual vision, even of the 
wise. And in such cases it is surely more 
consistent with the spirit of the gospel to 
lament the imperfection of the human un* 
derstanding, and the force of unseen preju- 
dice, than superciliously to condemn the 
virtuous unbeliever. 

That the Christian religion teaches the 
important doctrine of a resurrection both 
of the just and of the unjust, that they who 
are truly virtuous here will rise to everlast- 
ing honour and felicity hereafter, and that 
the wicked will be consigned over to con- 
dign punishment, are facts too plainly re- 
vealed to be called in question by any who 
admit that Christianity is true. But when 
we consider the nature of death, the entire 

44 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

suspension of the rational and active pow- 
ers of man, the wide dispersion of the com- 
ponent particles of the animal system, their 
affinity to, and intimate combination with 
oUier material substances, and even with 
other human forms, in continued and inde- 
finite succession ; the immense interval of 
duration which is to elapse before the reno- 
vation of all things, the extreme apparent 
improbability that a dead man should be 
restored to life, and its contrariety to all ex- 
isting analogies, and to all antecedent ex- 
perience; and if to these difficulties we add 
the case of infants, and also of a natural 
debility of intellect; these are difficulties 
which completely baffle the powers of the 
human mind, and of these problems it 
is in vain to atten>pt even a plausible so- 
lution. Upon these subjects, interesting as 
they may be, we must be content to remain 
in perfect ignorance for the present, and to 
wait in humble, patient expectation for 
the dawn of that glorious morning which 
will diffiise a bright lustre over the dark 
cloud of Providence, and by realizing the 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 45 

stupendous fact, will at once pu£ an end to 
all difficulties concerning the mode. And 
in the mean time we may safely, and it be- 
comes us cheerfully to rely upon the sure 
word of promise, not doubting that He who 
first gave life and sense, and intellectual 
and moral powers, and who afterwards re- 
sumed the breath that he bestowed, can, 
when he pleases, restore it again in a far 
better and more perfect state of existence. 
Why then should it appear incredible to us 
that God should raise the dead ? 

Further, It appears, iii fact, to be per- 
fectly consistent with the general plan of 
divine providence, and with the impartial 
goodness of God, to impart moral advan- 
tages to some which are denied to others. 
The want of universality , therefore, cannot in 
reason be urged as an objection of peculiar 
force against the divine authority of the 
Christian religion. It is but a particular 
case under the general problem. And yet, 
that a doctrine so essential to the welfare of 
all should have been limited to so small a 
proportion of mankind, and that the pro- 

46 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

gress of the Christian religion in enlighten- 
ing the mind, in improving the character, 
and in bettering the condition of the human 
race in general, and of individual professors 
of that divide doctrine in particular, should 
have been so very slow, is a difficulty which 
has perplexed many serious and well dis- 
posed minds^ and which it is by no means 
easy to explain. 

It is not essential to autheT$tic prapheey 
that the terms; in which it is expressed should 
be fully understood antecedently to its ac- 
complishment. But when the events fore- 
told have actually taken place^ it is natural 
to expect that the correspondence of the 
circumstances with the prediction, should 
be sufficiently obvious to satisfy a candid 
and reasonable inquirer who possesses com« 
petent means of information. That this sa^p- 
tisfaction is not universally obtained by per^ 
sons of this character, in respect to all tb^ 
prophecies, or reputed prophecies, that bre 
to be found in the Jewish scriptures, is suf- 
ficiently obvious to those who are acquainted 
with the bulky and discordant commenta- 

Imperfection of Hufnan Knowledge. 47 

lies of learned men^ equally pious, and 
equally desirous of discovering the truth. 

That the Christian doctrine . should have 
been permitted to be corrupted, and almost 
totally disfigured by antichristian errors, is 
no more repugnant to the character of the 
divine government, than the gross corrup- 
tions of natural religion by heathen idola- 
try ; and this, like the want of universality, 
is no more than a particular case of a gene- 
ral problem, and cannot reasonably be al- 
leged as an objection against the truth of 
divine revelation. Also these very corrupt 
tMiis, so improbable in themselves^ having 
been distinctly foretold by the spirit of pro- 
phecy, their present existence conoborates 
the evidence of the Christian religiM. But 
that a doctrine so pure and simple, so ra- 
tkmal and practical, so kind and beneficent, 
should, have been so soon contaminated by 
the gross mixture of heathen fables and rab- 
bioical absardities^ and that the conduct of 
its professors should in so short a time, and 
sudi a multitude of cases, have been in di- 
rect opposition to that purity, and sanctity. 

48 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

and gentleness of spirit which is the animat- 
ing soul of genuine Christianity, is a mys- 
tery, the solution of which is far beyond 
the reach of the limited faculties of man. 

7. Our knowledge of b, future state ofejc- 
utence is imperfect and obscure. 

That there is a life to come in which men 
will be rewarded according to their works, 
is the main doctrine of the Christian revela- 
tion. But here that revelation stops. A 
thousand questions may be asked concern- 
ing the nature, the mode of existence, the 
employment, the social intercourse, the 
mode of acquiring and communicating 
knowledge, the sphere of action, the capa- 
city for, and the means of intellectual and 
moral improvement, concerning the exer* 
cises of benevolence and devotion, and the 
sources of enjoyment and felicity in the new 
state of existence; but not one of these 
questions is answered. All that we know 
is, that we shall be raised by Christ, that 
we shall be like him, and that we shall be 
with him where he is : also, that the wicked 
shall rise to ihe resurrection of condemna- 


Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 49 

tion. All beyond is veiled in impenetrable 
darkness. Nor can any effort of reason or 
imagination avail to penetrate the imper- 
vious gloom, till the grand day of consum- 
mation arrive, when the curtain shall be 
drawn aside, and the invisible and eternal 
world, in all its glory and in all its terror, 
shall at once burst upon the astonished 
gaze, and all the myriads of mankind shall 
learn their respective award of judgment 
or of mercy, of weal or wo. 

In the mean time, it is enough for the 
anxious expectant of these awful scenes, to 
realize to himself these grand and alarming 
views, to rely upon the divine promise 
that all will come to pass at the appointed 
season, to recollect that to every individual 
that solemn period is near at hand, and that 
instead of amusing, confounding, or alarm- 
ing himself by fruitless speculations, it will 
be his true wisdom to give all diligence to 
be found of his judge in peace. 

. The subject we have been considering is 
of great importance, and leads to many use- 
ful refUctiom. 

VOL. IL £ 

50 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

1. Men have no right to be discontented 
at the limitation of human knowledge. 

To be discontented that knowledge is 
limited, is to be discontented with our rank 
in the scale of existence, it is to be discon* 
tented that we are not angels, that we are 
not gods : than which nothing can be more 
absurd, or even impious^ As creatures, our 
knowledge must necessarily be limited: 
and it is the indisputable right of the Crea- 
tor to limit the powers and faculties of his 
creatures agreeably to his sovereign will. 
Not to say, that it ill becomes those to 
complain of the limitation of knowledge, 
who take so little pains to acquire the know- 
ledge which is within their reach. 

2. However limited human knowledge 
may be in its utmost and most successinl 
exertions, great tlmnkfulness \^ due for the 
powers of acquiring knowledge which men 
actually possess, and for the range which is 
allowed for their exercise and improvement. 

The intellectual powers of man, however 
limited, are the glory of human nature : 
they distinguish the human from the brute 

Imperftction of Human Knowledge. 51 

creation : and they advance man to a re- 
semblance to his Maker: they impress the 
image of God upon the mind : they are 
susceptible of perpetual improvement: they 
render man a moral and accountable agent, 
capable of knowing, loving, and serving 
Grod, and of immortal life and happiness. 
They are an inestimable treasure, the pos- 
session of which demands our highest gra- 
titude, and the proper improvement of 
which is an indispensable duty, and a source 
of exquisite and unbounded felicity, and 
for the neglect and misemployment of 
which men are greatly accountable. 

3. From the narrow limits within which 
human knowledge is circumscribed let us 
learn humility. 

** Pride was never made for man," and very 
ill becomes a being whose knowledge and 
whose powers are contracted within so li- 
mited a sphere. '' Knowledge," saith the 
apostle, " puffeth up/* He means the fan- 
cied knowledge of the prating sciolists of 
that conceited and ignorant age. But true 
knowledge is always humble : for they who 
£ 2 

52 Imperfection of Human Knowledge: 

know the most are most sensible of the im- 
perfection of human knowledge, and of the 
weakness of the human faculties. And in- 
deed the first step towards improvement in 
knowledge, is to know our own ignorance. 
They whose knowledge is most compre* 
hensive, will most distinctly discern how 
much still remains unknown, how much 
the circle of darkness exceeds the circle of 
light : they will be least inclined to value 
themselves upon their superiority over 
others, will most earnestly pant after fur- 
ther improvement, and will be most willing 
to leam of those, who in many respects 
may be greatly their inferiors. 

4. Candour well becomes those whose 
knowledge is confined within such narrow 

Man is a mystery to himself, both in his 
intellectual and moral nature. Few can 
distinctly analyse the principles of their 
own actions. How much more difficult is 
it to judge correctly of the motives of an- 
other? How unbecoming, how blamable 
is it, then, to indulge a disposition to im- 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 53 

pute actions to evil motives, and to put the 
worst construction upon doubtful conduct ! 
They who are ignorant should at least be 
charitable, and put the best construction 
which the case will bear ; should abstain 
from harsh censure, and should judge of 
the conduct of others, as they desire that 
others should judge of them. 

And let involuntary error be treated with 
indulgence. Where all are liable to err, 
what can be more reasonable than mutual 
forbearance ? a disposition not to expose^ 
not to ridicule, not to condemn severely 
the errors of others, even though they be 
palpable and dangerous, but with all mild- 
ness to rectify the mistakes of our christian 
brethren, and thankfully to receive informa- 
tion and correction from them ? In this 
way each may contribute his share to the 
general stock of knowledge, and all may 
improve in wisdom and in goodness. 

5. Those subjects ought to engage our 
attention most, which are most suitable to 
our respective stations, and best adapted to 
the great end of our existence. 

54 Imperfection of Human Knots4cdgt. 

Many persons of indolent dispositions 
and slothful habits pretend that Truth is 
so much enveloped in darkness, that it is in 
vain to search after it, and take to them- 
selves great credit, as men of wisdom and 
moderation, because they have no fixed 
principles, and are sceptical about every 
thing: which means nothing more than 
that they are too indolent, or too indifferent 
to make inquiry ; in consequence of which 
they often remain in error when truth is 
within their reach ; and are ptone to con- 
demn more diligent inquirers as disturbers 
of the public peace. Let not such flatter 
themselves that their conduct is approved. 
The servant is justly cbQdemned who neg- 
lects his single talent. 

Further, Many who are of speculative 
and inquisitive habits, lose much time tn 
speculations which are unprofitable and 
imaginary. It is the part of wisdom to se-r 
lect those topics for inquiry which are not 
only within the sphere of the human intel- 
lect, but which are of the most immediate 
importance. Some have little time for spe- 

Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 55 

dilation, and ought therefore to devote their 
attention to practical truths. Let the hus- 
bandman learn the management of his 
farm ; let the mechanic practise the art of 
his occupation ; let the professors of every 
lawful pursuit and science study to excel in 
their respectifve departments ; and let those 
who are placed in situations which afford 
Idsure fcxr speculation^ employ their powers 
oil subjects that, are useful, not on those 
which are without the grasp of the human 
mind ; not upon substances, and essences, 
the nature of matter and spiritii the mode of 
the divine existence, and the ranks and or- 
ders of an imaginary celestial hierarchy, 
far these things are beyond the line of the 
human intellect, and* men may speculate 
upon them for ever without attaining one 
particle of k«iowledge. < 

On the contrary, there are many subjects 
which will well reward the ck)6est attention 
and ithe most diligent inquiry. Such are 
searching into the powers of nature in order 
to improve the arts of life ; tracing the wis- 
dom and the goodness of the Creator in the 

56 Impetfection of Human Knowledge. 

arrangement, the revolutions, and the laws 
of the celestial bodies ; investigating the 
principles of the social compact, and the 
laws of civil society, which are the basis of 
public and of private security, the links of 
social order, and the foundation of all in- 
tellectual and political improvement. Each 
should apply to those subjects which are 
best suited to his own powers, and to his 
inclination, taste, and condition in life ; and 
which may contribute most to his comfort, 
credit, and usefulness. And above all, let 
every one attend to those great moral prin- 
ciples and sublime truths which are equally 
accessible to the rich and the poor, to the 
learned and the unlearned, and by which 
the human character is formed to piety, 
virtue, and happiness. 

6. Let those who possess knowledge, and 
especially that which is of the greatest prac- 
tical value, be willing to impart to those 
who are destitute, and especially to those 
who are willing to learn. 

To communicate knowledge is to com- 
municate happiness, or, to say the least, the 

Impeffeetion of Human Knowledge. 57 

best means of attaining it. Moral and re- 
ligious knowledge is the most useful of ail ; 
and they who have been placed, by divine 
Providence^ in circumstances favourable to 
the acquisition of it should be willing to 
communicate Truth to others, in a way the 
most accessible to their understandings, 
and the least revolting to their prejudices. 
They must not, indeed, expect, let their 
prudence and gentleness be what it may, 
that they shall in all cases meet with re- 
turns of gratitude and kindness from those 
whom they thus endeavour to instruct. 
Age is angry when its prejudices are dis- 
turbed, and youth, though candid and in- 
quisitive, is often too giddy, and too impa- 
tient to listen to instruction. It asks what 
is Truth ? but, like Pilate, it does not wait 
for the answer, and grudges that patient 
inquiry which is often necessary to the dis- 
covery. Some will stop their ears against 
the messengers of Truth ; others will per- 
secute and defame ; and in every possible 
way will, injure and distress them. But 
there are some, a chosen few, who will lis- 

58 Imperfection ofHy^tnan Knowledge. 

ten with attention anrf delight. To these 
the sacred words are a ss^ypuf of life unto 
life;, to the others of death unto death. 
But the messengers of Truth must not be 
fearful^ nor discouraged, nor relax. Their 
labours are not in vain. Success they can- 
npt command. Faithfulness, and, zeal, and 
perseverance are in their power ; and these 
shall be accepted, whatever |i>e t;he event 
The doctrine of Trijth is. a sjyeet pejfume 
in those who perish, a& w^U ^ in those who 

7. The insatiable, thirst after knowledge, 
the capacity for intellectual improvement, 
the ^ low< attainments, of the present state, 
and the anticipation and jdegire of endless 
progression ia. knowledge .and virtue, are 
bints suggested by the light of nature, and 
the structure of the human mind, that man 
h intended for a better and happier state of 

existence hereafter, 

. /' Else, whenoethis pleasing )ippe» this fond desire, 
Tlfis loqging after .immortality ?** 

Why is this unquenchable thirst after 
knowledge implanted or generated in the 

Impeffectian of Human Knowledge. 59 

human breast, if it is never to be grati- 
fied ? Why is knowledge limited to so few 
objects, when it is capable of extending 
itself to such an immense variety ? Why 
is the acquisition of intellectual treasure 
interrupted by death, often at a time wh6n 
success appears to be at hand, and the dili- 
gent labourer is just about to reap an abun- 
dant harvest ? If this be the sad result of 
all, well may the pensive inquirer be tempt- 
ed to ask, Lord, wherefore hast thou made 
all men in vain ? 

It must, indeed, be confessed, however 
mortifying the acknowledgment, that these 
questions admit of a plausible reply, and 
that the perpetual improveableness of the 
human mind is an assumption more flatter- 
ing to human vanity, than consonant to 
the known laws, and the observed pheno- 
mena of the human mind : and therefore, 

8. Let us bless God for the revelation of 
the gospel, by which life and immortality 
are brought to light : and let us anticipate 
with triumphant expectation that glorious 
and happy state of existence in which know- 

60 Imperfection of Human Knowledge. 

ledge shall be complete, and virtue and 
happiness shall be immutable and everlast- 
ing. Now we see through a glass darkly, 
but then face to face: now we know in 
part, but then we shall know, even as we 
are known. 



Isaiah, xlv. 7. 

I form the Ughl, and create darkness : 1 make peace 
and create evil : /, the Lord, do all these things. 

The providence of God expresses the con- 
cern which the Supreme Being takes in 
the events which come to pass through the 
created universe. This is a very interest- 
ing subject ; and in discoursing upon it, I 
propose — ^First, to prove that all events are 
appointed by God, and are justly to be 
ascribed to him as their primary cause. I 
shall then inquire to what extent the 
agency of God is concerned in the pro- 
duction of all events. 

That all events are under the direction 
of divine Providence, and are justly to be 
ascribed to God as their proper and pri- 

62 The Prwidence of God 

mary cause, is a truth supported by the 
clearest evidence. 

For God is the proper cause of all the 
powers which exist in nature, whether ani- 
mate or inanimate, mechanical or volun- 

He assigned these several powers their 
respective spheres of action, and modelled 
their various combinations, certainly fore- 
seeing the results which would eventually 
take place through the successions of an 
eternal duration. 

He therefore willed, appointed, or, as 
some chuse to express it, he decreed, that 
those events should, in all cases, come to 
pass, which he himself foresaw would be 
the natural and certain consequences of his 
own operations. To affirm the contrary 
would be absurd. 

Therefore, it is manifest that God is the 
PROPER and PtUMARY CAUSE of all events ; 
of the least as well as of the greatest; of what 
we call EVIL, as well as of that which we de- 
nominate GOOD, agreeably to the language 
of the text: J form the light and create 

extending to all Natural Events. 63 

darkness : I make peace and create evil : 
I, the Lord, do all these things. 

I do not know any demonstration more 
clear and satisfactory than this. I cannot 
discover a single objection which can, with 
any plausibility, be urged against it But 
as it involves conclusions of the highest 
importance, the argument deserves and re- 
quires a more distinct and detailed illus- 

1. All events depending upon mechanic 
col powers, and what are usually styled the 
laws of nature, are to be traced up to God 
as their proper and primary cause! 

All that we know of matter is a combi- 
nation of powers, acting according to cer- 
tain stated rules and laws, by the mutual 
concurrence, opposition, or modifying in- 
fluences of which, all those effects are pro- 
duced to which we give the name of me-^ 

Of these powers, whatever be their num- 
ber, their diversity, or force, God is the pro- 
per and sole author. He disposed every 
particle in its original place ; foreseeing in 

64 The Providence of God 

every instance the certain and necessary 
results of the powers which he communi- 
cated, and therefore unquestionably willing 
and ordaining those results ; which, there* 
fore, are as justly to be ascribed to God, as 
if, without having communicated any pow- 
ers to inanimate substances, and without 
adhering to any fixed rules of operation, he 
should himself interpose directly and im« 
mediately, to bring the event to pass. 

The stupendous machinery of the uni- 
verse is the work of God. 

" He rounded in his palm those spacious orbs, 
And bowled them flaming through thedark profound.^ 

He fixed the number of worlds and systems, 
and clusters of systems, with which the im- 
mensity of space is occupied, and, as it 
were, thronged. He measured out the vast 
expanse : He divided it into convenient 
districts : He ranged the etherial systems : 
He filled the celestial orbs with light, and 
gave them their positions in the centres of 
their respective systems : He moulded the 
planets: He marked their dimensions : He 
adjusted their situations: He impressed 

extending to all Natural Events. 65 

their motions : He appointed the revolu- 
tions of their diurnal and annual course : He 
commanded the satellites to attend their 
respective primaries ; and in the absence of 
the sun to cheer them with reflected light : 
He bridles the eccentricities of the comets, 
and arranges the laws of the various systems 
so as to produce effects the most beneficial 
to the inhabitants, by the mutual actions and 
influences of their component bodies, with- 
out any harsh interference or disastrous dis- 

Of the world in which we dwell he has 
adapted the form, the motions, the compo- 
nent parts, and the various productions, to 
the nature and exigencies of its numerous 
inhabitants: He communicated those active 
powers by which the earth revolves about 
the sun in its annual orbit, and impressed 
that obliquity upon its axis, which produces 
the grateful and useful vicissitudes of the 
seasons : He regulated its distance from the 
fountain of light and heat, in that proportion 
which insures the most agreeable and use- 
ful temperature, over the greatest extent of 


66 The Prmdence of God 

surface, and gave it that fixed and regular 
motion upon its axis which produces the 
needful revolutions of night and day, and 
which constitutes the most obvious, and the 
most correct measure of passing time : He 
raises the vapours from the sea: He sus- 
pends them in the higher regions of the at* 
mosphere : He directs the courses of the 
clouds, and at the proper season he precipi- 
tates them upon the earth in seasonable 
showers, to refresh and fertilize the ground : 
He has ordained the moon to divide the 
seasons, to diffuse a mild and tranquil light 
over the face of nature in the absence of the 
day, and by her attractive influence to go^ 
vern the flux and reflux of the ocean, to 
prevent the stagnation of that immense body 
of waters, and to keep it from infecting the 
atmosphere with noisome and pestilential 

The providence of God governs the 
courses of the tmnds — of those which by the 
uniformity of their direction indicate the 
existence of fixed laws to which they are 
subject, and likewise of those variable gales 

€3ctending to all Natural Events. 67 

which, though to a superficial observer they 
appear to be the effect of chance, are really 
subject, in every instance, to the operation 
of general laws, and obey the direction of 
an over-ruling Providence, equally with 
those which blow invariably, or by regular 
alternations, from the same, or from oppo- 
site points of the compass. 

He supplies the /oMW(ai/w with water: 
He collects the falling drops in the caverns 
of the mountains: He causes them to gush 
in torrents from the crevices of the rocks, or 
tQ distil gent^ly from the porous sides of the 
hills: He guides the course of the waters 
through the ^(^rtile valleys, and conducts the 
continually augmented and majestic stream 
back to the ocean from which it originally 

The power of God also exerts itself in the 
dark caverns of the earth, remote froni the 
eye of man. There, by the mysterious ope- 
ration of unknown laws, he forms that va- 
riety of mineral substances, which when ex- 
tracted from their deep recesses by the per- 
severing industry of man, and subjected to 
F 2 

68 The Providence of God 

the needful processes of human art, are con- 
verted to the vanous uses of life, whether to 
supply materials for building, or fuel to sof- 
ten the rigour of the winter's frost, or to 
provide useful materials and instruments 
for the purposes of labour and art, or to 
supply the precious medium of commercial 
intercourse, or, finally, to furnish rich and 
costly ornaments to opulence and grandeur. 

The least, as well as the greatest effects 
in the natural world, are produced by the 
wise and good providence of God. Nothing 
is neglected or overlooked. He numbers 
the grains of sand : He counts the drops of 
the ocean : He knows every blade of grass 
in the field : His power and wisdom placed 
every particle of matter in its original sta- 
tion, and not an atom moves from its place 
without his leave. Effects the most insig- 
nificant in themselves derive importance 
from their connexion with the system, and 
the propriety and necessity of adhering to 
general laws. 

There is no such thing as chance under 
the divine government. Every particle of 

extending to all Natural Events. 69 

matter^ in all its various combinations, and 
in every stage of its progress through the 
immensity of duration, was from the first 
completely known to him who seeth the 
end from the beginning, who comprehends 
universal nature at a glance, and the infini- 
tude of whose knowledge cannot withdraw 
its notice from the minutest atom which 
floats in the sunbeam. 

The vicissitudes of night and day, the 
revolutions of the seasons, the refreshing 
breeze, the genial influence of the sun, the 
fructifying showers, and the production of 
those substances which are subservient to 
the accommodation of life, we readily admit 
to be the operation of God. We have no 
hesitation in ascribing them to him whom 
we have been always, and justly, instructed 
to regard as the benevolent Parent of the 
human race. But when we are taught that 
evil, as well as good, proceeds from God, 
we naturally pause ; and it is not without 
some repugnance to our feelings that we ad- 
mit the earthquake, the volcano, the wither- 
ing blight, the pestilential vapour, the de- 

70 The Providence of God 

vouring conflagration, the wide- wasting hur- 
ricane, to be under the immediate direction 
of Providence, and the ministers ofhis wiH. 
Yet no truth is more certain, and none 
more consolatory than this. Darkness, fts 
well as light, is formed by God : He maketh 
peace, and createth evil. This is the doc- 
trine of revealed religion, and it is the doc- 
trine of right reason and true philosophy. 

A moment's reflection will convince us 
of this truth. What is pestilence, which 
sweeps away its thousands in a day ? It is 
disease, occasioned by a putrid state of the 
atmosphere, produced by the action of an 
indefinite series of causes originally appoint- 
ed by God, and of which this calamity, at 
the time, and in the degree and circum- 
stances in which it takes place, was the fore- 
seen and predestinated result. 

What is earthquake, but a violent con- 
vulsion of the earth, produced by the sudden 
action of internal and unknown causes, ex- 
ploding at a particular time, and often pro- 
ducing the most tremendous effects, the 
train of which was laid at the foundation of 

extending to all Natural Events. 71 

the earth, with a certaia prescience and 
fixed purpose that this calamity, terrible as 
it is, should happen at such a time, in such 
circumstances, and to the extent in which 
it actually occurred ? 

What are those formidable tempests, 
those destructive hurricanes, which in the 
course of a few hours ravage the works of 
men, desolate the face of nature, convert 
a paradise into a wilderness, and consign 
thousands to an untimely grave ? What, I 
say, are they, but commotions of the atmos- 
phere, governed by natural, but unknown 
causes, created by the divine power^ limited 
by established laws, let loose by the sove- 
reign will of the great Regent of the uni- 
verse, and restrained by his pleasure ? They 
obey his authority, and with the most per- 
fect exactness they execute his decrees. 

Volcanos, deluges, conflagrations, and 
other dreadful calamities, which are occa- 
sionally employed as ministers of justice, to 
alarm and punish a guilty world, are equally 
the result of those laws which God has 
fixed : and the effects of which, in every 

72 The Providence of God 

change of circumstances, through the whole 
period of created existence, he from the 
beginning distinctly foresaw, and precisely 
marked out; so that all those calamitous 
events which we usually call evil, and which 
are the necessary result of natural causes, 
are with strict propriety to be ascribed to 
God, as their proper author and original 

The lesser evils of life, the disasters which 
occur in the narrow circle of domestic so- 
ciety, those events which distress, or destroy 
individual existence, equally with all great 
public calamities, are unquestionably to be 
attributed to the overruling providence of 

The bow is drawn, or the musket dis- 
charged at a venture; but the arrow or 
the bullet is directed by an invisible hand 
to the destined object. Do 1 say by im- 
mediate supernatural interposition ? By 
no means. But the event is as really 
under the control of divine Providence, 
and as directly fulfils the purpose of God, 
as if it had been brought to pass by su- 

extending to all Natural Events. • 73 

pernatural interposition. For the bullet 
and the arrow are carried through the 
air with infallible precision by the ope- 
ration of the laws of nature, and when 
these laws were first established, this spe- 
cific event was the foreseen, predestined, 
and necessary result. 

A stroke of lightning, the explosion of a 
mine-damp, the fall of a house, or of a tree, 
of a tile, or of a stone, and a thousand such 
like accidents, often break the thread of 
human life, and occasionally deprive a nu- 
merous family of a virtuous and industrious 
head, and society of a respectable and use- 
fiil member. These events are often called 
accidental, but without reason. They are 
all foreknown, fore-ordained, and in the 
given circumstances inevitable; the fore- 
seen and intended effects of the most wisely 
constituted laws; and are all justly to be 
attributed to him who seeth the end from 
the beginning. Can there be evil in the 
city, and the Lord hath not done it ? 

The fore- knowledge of God is utterly 
inconsistent with what is commonly under- 

74 The Pramdence of God 

stood by chance or accident Whatever 
God foresees to be the natural result of the 
laws which he has himself constituted, in the 
circumstances in which he has appointed 
them to operate, not only will inevitably 
happen, but will also come to pass agree- 
ably to his intention and purpose; and 
ought always to be regarded as essential 
parts of the great original plam 

What consideration can be 'more conso- 
latory, or more beneficial to a serious and a 
thoughtful mind than thi^ ; that all events, 
whether upon an extensive or a limited 
scale, whether they be of a pleasing or of 
a disastrous nature, whether they influence 
the concerns of large communities, or are 
confined to the narrow circle of domestic 
life, are equally the work of God ; all are 
tO' be traced up to himf as their authbr atld 
primary cause^ They are brought to pass, 
not by blind chance, not by irresistible un- 
controllable fate, but in conformity to the 
will, and by the express appointment bf 

This consideration greatly enhances the 

extending to all Natural Events. 15 

value of the blessings of life, because it as* 
sures us that they all flow from divine be- 
nignity. So that a pious and benevolent 
mind not only enjoys the immediate grati- 
fication which arises from the agreeable 
occurrences of life, but by associiation it 
possesses an additional pleasure to which 
the unthinking and unbelieving mind is a 
stranger ; namely, that of discerning and 
delighting in the goodness of God in all 
the gifts of his bounty, of rejoicing in the 
presence and favour of an Almighty beAne- 
factor and friend, of triumphing in the di^- 
vine government, of hoping for future mer- 
cies and benefits, and of experiencing a 
lively sense of gratitude to the Author of 
all good. 

Also, the habitual reference of all eala^ 
mitous events to the wise over-ruling pro- 
vidence of God, is an unfailing source of 
saiuf action and peace. 

What rational considerations are there to 
which an unbeliever in the divine govern- 
ment can resort for consolation under the 
sufferings and sorrows of life ? The utmost 

76 The Providence of God 

which can reasonably be expected from 
that philosophy, if such it may be called, 
which excludes God from the universe, is 
a gloomy and sullen resolution in sustain- 
ing calamities which are inevitable, and of 
which it would be useless to complain? 
But the rational believer, who places his 
confidence in the wisdom and benevolence 
of the Great Supreme, who refers all the 
vicissitudes of life to his governing will, 
meets adversity with very different feelings, 
and in a very different posture of mind. 
He will not yield to imaginary terrors of 
merely possible events, because he is as- 
sured that no event, and particularly no 
calamitous event, can ever come to pass 
without a divine appointment. When dis- 
astrous events are in near and probable 
prospect, his heart is at rest, trusting in God. 
He is persuaded that, however imminent 
the danger, the calamity shall not take 
place without the permission of divine Pro- 
vidence. That, however threatening or 
alarming it may be, it shall not exceed the 
commission by which it is restricted, and 

extending to all Natural Events. 77 

that it shall in the end produce the best 
and happiest effects. It is no objection 
with him that he cannot at once discern 
the designs of infinite wisdom. It is 
enough that he knows that God is infi- 
nitely and immutably good, and he is sure 
that infinite benevolence will never wan- 
tonly sport with human misery. When 
calamity arrives, if a friend is the victim of 
its arrows he tenderly sympathizes in the 
sadness of the sufferer, and gently admi- 
nisters the consolation, and pours in the 
sovereign balm, which religion only can 
supply; and if he is himself the sufferer he 
bows his head, without a murmur, to the 
disposal of unerring wisdom, and, with 
dutifiil resignation, he accepts evil from the 
hand from which he has received so large 
a profusion of good. Such is the wide dis- 
tinction between the man of rational and 
habitual piety, who firmly believes in the 
wise over-ruling government of God, and 
the man who has no faith in divine Provi- 
dence : the latter can have no hope — ^the 
former can never despair. 

78 The Providence of God 

The scriptures of the Old and New Tes- 
tament exhibit many instances of the 
powerful tendency of habitual and exalted 
piety to support and cheer the mind amidst 
the vicissitudes and sorrows of life. Under 
the Mosaic dispensation pious men uni- 
formly ascribed all events to God, whe- 
ther good or evil, whether prosperous or 

It was foretold to Eli that his sons would 
be slain, and his house degraded. The 
venerable priest, conscious of his own cri- 
minal negligence, and knowing the incor- 
rigible profligacy of his wicked sons, far 
from arraigning the justice of the Supreme 
Being, submits with an unrepining spirit 
to the divine decree as made known to h^i^ 
by the infant prophet. It is the Lord^ jet 
hin^ do as seemeth him good. 

Though he slay me, saith the patient 
patriarch, I will {trust in him. Good, is 
the , word, of the J^rd which thou hast 
spoken, was the reply of the humbled 
ii^qnarch to the prophet who had foretpl^ 
the plunder of his wealth, the subversion ; 

extending to aU Natural Events. 79 

of his kingdom, and the captivity of his 

Though the 6g-tree ^should not blossom, 
and there should be no fruit in the vine ; 
though the labour of the olive should fail, 
and the fields should yield no meat; 
though the flock should be cut off from the 
fold, and there should be no herd in the 
stall ; yet, saith the devout prophet (Hab. 
iii. 17,) will I rejoice in the Lord. I will 
joy in the God of my salvation. 

We know, saith the apostle Paul, that 
all things work together for good to them 
that love God, to them that are called ac- 
cording to his purpose. 

In a word, the man who firmly believes 
that glorious doctrine, which the voice of 
Nature distinctly proclaims to the reflect- 
ing mind, that all events, are so arranged 
by the pre-disposing and over-ruling pro- 
vidence of God, that, without his leave^ 
not a sparrow lights :upoa the ground, will 
always see abundant reason to be content 
and thankful.. For, under the government 
of God, as nothing can be fortuitous, so 

80 The Providence of God 

nothing can be eventually, and in all its 
bearings, calamitous. But all events which 
come to pass by the operation of natural 
and mechanical causes, whether they be 
productive of apparent good or evil, in 
their immediate effects ; whether they give 
birth to ease or pain, to health or sickness, 
to prosperity or adversity, to life or death, 
all are, without exception, essential points 
of a vast and magnificent plan, which in 
the whole, and in every the minutest por- 
tion and ramification, is not only wise and 
good, but the wisest and best; such as 
could not in any, the least particular, be 
ameliorated and improved. With this 
principle deeply impressed upon the mind, 
distinctly and constantly kept in view, 
and associating and blending itself with 
all the best feelings and affections of the 
heart, it would be impossible to be miser- 
able; it would be impossible to be other- 
wise than resigned and thankful in every 
state and condition of life; and whatever 
Nature may feel or suffer, either from per- 
sonal or social, from private or public dis- 

extending to aU Natural Events. 81 

asters, this unshaken confidence in God 
will, upon every occasion, produce a great 
preponderance of enjoyment, so that if 
afflictions abound, consolations will much 
more abound, and peace, and hope, and 
gratitude, will be the temper of the en- 
lightened and well-governed mind, in a 
state of the deepest external distress. 

It has been asked by those who have 
speculated upon the subject, whether the 
laws of nature are the actual energy as well 
as the wise appointment of God ; and whe- 
ther those effects, which we usually ascribe 
to the powers of matter, be not, strictly 
speaking, attributable to the direct agency 
of the Supreme Being, exerted in corres- 
pondence with certain invariable rules 
which he has prescribed to himself. 

A great majority of the wisest and best 
philosophers have maintained that the laws 
of nature are the immediate energy of God. 
They have argued that matter is essentially 
inert; that it cannot act beyond its sur- 
face; and consequently, that all those ef- 
fects which are usually ascribed to the va- 


82 The Prwidence of God 

rioins active powers of matter, are, in fact, 
the operation of some intelligent agent, 
probably of the Supreme Being himself, 
whose infinite knowledge can never ht 
perplexed by the multiplicity of its objects, 
whose Almighty power can exert itself at 
the same instant, in every part of the uni- 
verse, to produce the effects required; and 
in whose all-comprehending view events, 
which, singly considered, are trivial ; yet, 
as parts of a system, are indispensably ne- 
cessary, and often lead to the most impor- 
tant results. 

I love that philosophy which teaches us 
to see God at all times, in all places, and 
in all events; and I relish not that cold 
and cheerless system which excludes the 
Supreme Being from all agency upon, and 
connexion with his works. But, whether 
the laws of nature be the actual energies of 
God, or whether they be powers derived 
from him, and acting in every circum- 
stance agreeably to his appointment, pro- 
ducing at all times the very effect which he 
foresees and intends, is a problem of very 
difficult solution. Perhaps some may be 

extending to all "Natural Events. 83 

inclined to believe that matter is not to be 
considered and treated as that inert and 
sluggish substance which the former sys- 
tems of philosophy have taught. These 
philosophers may be disposed to think that 
alJ we know concerning matter is a combi- 
nation of active powers, and that when 
these powers are suspended nothing of 
matter remains. Upon this supposition it 
would be still more proper to say that the 
powers of matter are the work of God, 
than that they are his actual energies ; and 
that effects produced by^them are the ap- 
pointment rather than the immediate ope- 
ration of the Supreme Being, 

With this conclusion we njay rest ^atisr 
fied, without entering further into those 
speculations which lie, perhaps, beyond the 
reach of the human intellect. In this let 
us rejoice, that the Lord reigns : that his 
authority is universal and unlimited : that 
all nature is subservient to his wise and 
benevolent designs: and that in this in- 
stance, as in all others, bis will is done on 
earth, as it is in Heaven. 
G 2 



Pbovbbbs, xvi. 9. 

A man's heart deviseth his waj/^ but the Lord dSreetdh 
his steps. 

That the providence of God extends to 
all events which are brought to pass by the 
laws of nature, and that he is the proper 
cause of natural good and evil, is denied 
by none who profess to believe in the 
existence and government of the Supreme 

It is not equally obvious that events, 
which are accomplished by the instrumen- 
tality of intelligent and voluntary agents, 
also originate with God, and are justly to 
be ascribed to him as their proper and 
primary cause. This, however, is a cer- 
tain fact ; and the evidence of it will ap-^ 

Actions and Events Jbreknotm, ^c. 85 

pear satisfactory to every one wh,o reflects 
seriously and calmly upon the subject. 

The government of God extends to the 
thoughts^ volitions, and actions of all intel- 
ligent and voluntary agents, and to all 
events which depend upon them. All are 
foreseen by him, and in their respective 
circumstances they are permitted, and even 
appointed by divine vc^isdom, and consti- 
tute necessary links in the magnificent 
chain of universal order, harmony, and 

This observation is equally true and im- 
portant, both as it respects individuals and 
societies. The divine plan is uniformly 
supported and fulfilled, and there is not a 
thought of the heart which deviates from 
its foreseen and appointed course. 

First, With regard to individuak. 

It is evident that the Maker and Lord of 
all has communicated to each every power 
and faculty which he possesses, the capa- 
city for thought, reasoning, action, enjoy- 
ment, or suffering. He has limited to each 
his measure and degree of intellectual ca- 

86 Actions and Events 

pacity, and he cannot but know the iiill 
extent of the powers which he hath hitnself 

God also assigned to every individual his 
rank and station in the universe. He knows 
the influences to which every intelligent 
agent is exposed, the impression which 
those influences will effect, the volitions 
which they will generate, the efforts which 
will succeed, the extent to which those ex- 
ertions will be rendered effectual, and the 
counteracting influences by which they will 
be opposed and modified; and this know- 
ledge of the Supreme Being extends, with 
the most perfect and infallible precision, 
through every stage of intellectual exist- 
ence, to the remotest period of duration. 

It cannot be denied that the Supreme 
Being certainly knew how each of his in- 
telligent creatures would have acted had 
they been placed in different circumstances, 
and exposed to different impressions, or 
had their capacities for knowledge and vir- 
tue been greater or less than what they ac- 
tually possess. It is evident, therefore, that 

foreknown and appointed by God. 87 

it was in the option of the Supreme Being 
to have made whatever alterations he might 
have seen fit^ in the nature and circum- 
stances of his creatures, and to have intro- 
duced whatever changes he might have 
tbougbjt fit into the existing order of the 
^ntelJectual and the moral world. 

But if the Divine Being chose to impart 
certain powers and capacities to his crea- 
tures, with a distinct foresight of the man- 
ner in which those powers would be em- 
ployed; if he placed these creatures in cer- 
tain circumstances, knowing the precise 
effect which these circumstances would in 
every instance produce ; if it was at the 
same time in the power of God to have va- 
ried at his pleasure the nature and circum- 
stances of every voluntary agent, so as to 
have produced a cast of character, and a 
series of events entirely different from that 
which now exists; no conclusion can be 
more evident than this, that the entire suc- 
cession of volitions, actions, and events, and 
the compleKion and character of the agents 
tji^mselves, are precisely such as the Su- 

88 Actiom and Events 

preme Being foresaw, intended, and not 
only permitted, but in a certain and proper 
sense appointed, as what would best accord 
with his own wise and benevolent plan of 
universal government, and best fulfil his 
great and benevolent design. So that no 
event, no action, no purpose, no not even 
a thought, could stray from its appointed 
limit, or come into existence at any tinie, 
or in any circumstances, different froih 
what was originally foreseen and intended. 
This is, indeed, an amazing thought. And 
hence it follows, that nothing which actual- 
ly exists could, all things considered, be 
changed for the better. For, to say the 
contrary, would be to casta reflection upon 
the wisdom and goodness of God, who suf- 
fered these events to take place, and even 
brought them to pass, when a better order 
of things was equally in his view and in his 

It is plain that this argument is founded 
upon the assumption thst God foreknozDsaU 
events, those that depend upon the volitions 
and actions of intelligent and voluntary 

foreknown and appointed by God. 89 

agents, as well as those which are the result 
of mechanical laws, and of powers uncom- 
bined with intelligence. If, indeed, we rob 
the Supreme Being of his prescience, if we 
deny the existence of this glorious and aw- 
ful attribute; upon this dismal supposition, 
I acknowledge that events might occur 
totally different from his expectation, and 
even contrary to his intention : the Supreme 
Being would then be liable to the most bit- 
ter disappointment and mortification, and 
all that he intended for good might turn 
out evil; and when he designed happiness, 
the result might be hopeless and remediless 
misery ; so that it might literally be said 
that it repented him that he had made man 
upon earth. If any are pleased with this 
view of the divine government, which is the 
necessary consequence of denying the fore- 
knowledge of God, I neither applaud their 
judgment, nor envy their feelings. To me 
there appears no reasonable ground to 
doubt that all the works of God are fully 
known to him, from the creation to the dis- 

90 Actions and Events 

solution of the worlds and this is a doctrine 
full of consolation. 

Many of the thoughts which pass thrpugh 
the mind$ of intelligent agents, many of the 
volitions which they form, many of the AC* 
tions which they execute, are, when conei- 
dered separate from their connexion, trivial 
in the extreme. But these are not on that 
account to be regarded as excluded from the 
notice and the providence of God. That may 
be of great importance in connexion with a 
system, .which, singly considered, would be 
absolutely insignificant Events are conti- 
nually taking place in the natural world, 
such as the falling of a stone, the bursting 
of a bubble, or the floating of a mote in the 
atmosphere, than which nothing can .be 
conceived more insignificant, yet who will 
deny that these motions are regulated with 
mathematical precision, by laws which are 
undoubtedly the appointment, and possibly 
even the energy of God, and the unimpeded 
operation of which in every, the minutest 
instance, is essential to the harmony %ajid 

foreknomi and appointed by God. 91 

well-being of the whole. In a similar man- 
ner, millions of thoughts float in the mind 
of an intelligent being without any appa- 
rent use : millions of volitions are excited, 
and millions of actions performed, which 
are of no intrinsic and separate importance. 
It does not, however^ follow, that these are 
random speculations, and that they have 
no place in the divine plan. Little as the 
separate value of these trains of thought 
may be, they have their place in the gene- 
ral system, which if we could fully compre- 
hend, we should undoubtedly see that these 
comparative nothings were indispensable to 
the completion of the whole. States of 
mind are subject to laws, as regular as 
states of matter ; and it sometimes happens 
that trains of thought, which in themselves 
are most frivolous, are introductory to 
others upon which the most important con- 
sequences depend. Great events often ori- 
ginate in minute causes. And the most 
mi^nificentand important discoveries have 
sometimes followed from trivial incidents 

92 Actions and Evetits 

and random conjectures. Surely, then, 
these phenomena are not to be excluded 
from the cognizance of Omniscience. 

The most virtuous affections and habits^ 
virtuous actions, and all events which de* 
pend upon them, are to be traced up to 
God, as their proper and primary cause. 
It was he that imparted to the most en- 
lightened and most virtuous minds their 
capacity for knowledge and rectitude : he 
placed them in circumstances favourable 
to the acquisition of moral science, of vir- 
tuous principle, habit, and feeling, of right 
thoughts of God and duty, and of right af- 
fections towards him and their fellow-crea- 
tures : He furnished them with means and 
opportunities for the exercise and improve- 
ment of virtuous principles and affections^ 
and for the discipline and government of 
their minds : He preserved them from 
temptations which would have proved too 
powerful for them, and he supplied them 
with proper means and opportunities of cul- 
tivating and improving those pious and be- 

foreknown and appointed by God. 93 

Devolent affections which constitute the true 
dignity of human nature, and the best 
source of human happiness. 

These powers were communicated, these 
influences were proposed, and these oppor- 
tunities were offered, with the certain and 
distinct foresight of the effect which would 
be produced in every case, through the 
whole series of consequences, and also with 
the distinct knowledge of what would have 
happened had the circumstances, or any of 
them, been different, and that through the 
whole succession of endless duration. The 
Supreme Being may, therefore, with strict 
propriety of language, be said to form and 
to ordain these individuals to virtue and 
goodness. All their excellent qualities are 
his gift, all their virtuous actions are his 
work, and all the beneficial results of their 
wise, pious, and benevolent conduct were 
foreseen by him, and were all included in 
bis original decree, in the all-wise, all-mer- 
ciful, and all-comprehending plan of the 
divine government. So true is it that God 
is all, and in all. 

94 Actions and Events 

To the attentive and reflecting mind it 
will be equally apparent that the same train 
of reasoning, and the same important con- 
clusion which applies to the virtuous, and 
to their moral habits, affections, and actions, 
applies equally to the vicious. The same 
all-seeing and righteous God who created 
virtuous beings, also created wicked men, 
endued them with their various capacities 
and powers, and placed them in their re- 
spective stations and circumstances, at the 
same time distinctly foreseeing every ac- 
tion, every habit, and every character which 
would be the result of these capacities and 
impressions, and upon that foresight deter- 
mining that such characters should exist, 
such actions be performed, and that such 
events should take place ; when it was at 
the same time in his power, if such had 
been his pleasure, to have controlled the 
course of events, and either to have exter- 
minated these evil agents, or to have super- 
seded or modified their evil actions. Hence 
it follows that wicked men, and all their 
wicked thoughts, and purposes, and actionsi 

foreknown and appointed by God. 9^ 

and all the calamitous events resulting from 
them, fall as immediately within the view 
and the plan of Providence, as the righte- 
ous themselves, with all their righteous 
purposes and deeds. And, in fact, that no 
evi], natural or moral, exists in the universe* 
without the divine permission and appoint- 
menty and under the divine control. A 
consideration which tends, in the highest 
degree, to sooth and cheer the mind, and 
to reconcile it to all that happens. 

It is remarkable that the Scripture uses, 
without any limitation, the strongest and 
th6 most emphatical language upon this 
subject, and asserts, in the plainest and the 
m06t unequivocal terms, the agency of God 
in the formation of the moral character, 
and bis absolute predestination both of good 
and evil. 

Jer. xxxi. 33, 1 will put my law, saith 
he, in their inward parts, and write it on 
their hearts ; and I will be their God, and 
they shall be my people. And again, ch. 
xxxru39,40. I will give them one heart, and 
one way, that they may fear me for ever : 

96 Actions and Events 

and I will put my fear in their hearts, that 
they shall not depart from me. 

In the New Testament also the apostle 
exhorts the Philippians (ch. ii. 12), to work 
out their salvation with fear and trembling 
while God worketh in them to will and to 

The agency of God in the evil actions 
and designs of wicked men, is asserted in 
terms equally explicit and direct. I will 
harden Pharaoh's heart, (saith Jehovah to 
his servant Moses, whom he delegated as 
a messenger to that haughty prince,) and 
multiply my signs and my wonders in the 
land of Egypt, and Pharaoh shall not 
hearken to you, that I may lay my hand 
upon Egypt, and bring forth my armies 
and my people by great judgments. And, 
Exod. vii. 3, he declares to Pharaoh him- 
self. In very deed, for this cause did I raise 
thee up, that my name may be declared 
throu^out all the earth. 

When Shimei reviled David, during the 
rebellion of Absalom, and one of the offi* 
cers of that prince offered to chastise his 

foreknown and appointed by God. 97 

insoleDce^ No, says the humbled monarch, 
let himi curse, because the Lord hath said 
to him. Curse David. Who shall then say, 
wherefore hast thou done so? Let him 
alone, and let him curse, for the Lord hath 
bidden him. 

Senacherib, king of Assyria, when he 
invaded the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, 
and the countries adjacent to them, was in- 
fluenced by no motives but those which 
commonly govern the actions of tyrants and 
conquerors, and thought of nothing but gra- 
tifying his lawless ambition. But the pro- 
phet truly represents him as the servant of 
the Almighty, fulfilling, unintentionally, a 
commission which he was not at liberty 
to violate or to exceed. Ho ! to the Assy- 
rian the rod of mine anger, the staff in whose 
hand is the instrument of my indignation! 
against a dissembling nation will I send 
him, and against a people, the object of my 
wrath, will I give him charge ; but he does 
not so purpose, neither doth his heart so in- 

Cyrus was also a man of ambition and of 


98 AcHans and Events 

blood ; yet he likewise receives a commission 
from God, to make the conquest of Baby- 
lon, and to release the Jews from captivity. 
Isaiah, xliv. 24. Thus saith Jehovah, thy 
redeemer, I am he who maketh all things, 
who saith to Cyrus, thou art my shepherd, 
and he shall fulfil all my pleasure. Thus 
saith Jehovah to his anointed, to Cyrus, 
whom I hold fast by the right hand, that I 
may subdue nations before him, and ungird 
the loins of kings. I will go before thee and 
make the mountains level, the valves of 
brass will I break asunder, and the bars of 
iron will I hew down. I have called thee 
by thy name, though thou knowest me not 
Nebuchadnezzar was a haughty and am- 
bitious prince. He subdued Tyre after a 
siege of ten years, and afterwards made an 
easy conquest of Egypt. He was influenced 
by no motive but the love of domination, 
the lust of power and authority, whickrin 
all ages has been productive of mischief and 
misery in the world. Yet the prophet de- 
scribes him as acting under the directiop of 
Providence; and accomplishing its wise ^d 

foreknozm and appointed by God. 99 

benevolent designs. Ezek. xxix, 17- The 
word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, caused 
his army to serve a great service against 
Tyre, yet neither he nor his army had wages 
from Tyre, for the service which he served 
against it. Therefore, thus saith the Lord, 
Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to 
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and he 
shall take her multitude, and share her spoil, 
and seize her plunder, and she shall be 
wages for his army. I have given him the 
land of Egypt, because he wrought for me, 
saith Jehovah. 

The language of the New Testament upon 
this subject agrees with that of the Old, and 
b equally conformable with philosophical 
tniUi. The death of Christ was an act in 
jthe perpetration of which there was a com- 
plication of fraud, treachery, envy, malice, 
cruelty, and almost every bad passion of 
the heart. And yet the scriptures represent 
it as an event which came to pass by the 
(express appointment of God. Acts, iv. 37. 

H 2 

100 Actums and Events 

Of a truth, against thy holy servant Jesus, 
whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and 
Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and people 
of Israel, were gathered together to do 
whatever thy hand and thy counsel had be- 
fore determined to be doiie. 

The pious and virtuous mind easily recon- 
ciles itself to the acknowledgment that God 
is the author of all good, and even feels an 
exquisite gratification in referring all that 
is excellent in itself, and in all other intel- 
ligent and moral agents, to a Being of ori- 
ginal and unbounded goodness and be- 
nignity. But it pauses and shrinks at the 
thought, that the maker of good should 
also be the creator of evil. And rather than 
admit a doctrine which alone diffuses a 
cheering light over the dark abyss of Pro- 
vidence, and which alone can reconcile the 
inquiring mind to the existence and partial 
prevalence of evil under the divine govern- 
ment, the restless imagination of man has 
had recourse to suppositions the most unrea- 
sonable and unsatisfactory. Rather than 

foreknown and appointed by God. 101 

allow that evil is appointed by God for pur- 
poses the most beneficial, that it exists only 
by his permission, and is in every case li- 
mited and controlled by his governing wis- 
dom, men have terrified themselves with 
the absurd fiction of an independent evil 
principle, of a devil, whose sole object is to 
do mischief, and to counteract the bene- 
ficent purposes of the Creator, and who is 
frequently but too successful in his evil ma- 
chinations, and in the execution of his per- 
nicious designs. 

It cannot, however, be denied, that the 
doctrine that all evil, whether natural or 
moral, without excepting even the evil 
characters and actions of intelligent and 
accountable creatures, comes to pass not 
only with a divine permission, but that it is 
the subject of divine appointment and de- 
cree, and even enters into, and constitutes a 
portion of the plan and system of the divine 
administration, is a subject attended with 
very considerable difficulty. Nevertheless, 
if the difficulties of this question are examin* 
ed with calmness, candour, and courage. 

102 Actions and Events 

they will not be found so formidable as-they 
may at first appear. 

First, It is said, that upon this supposition 
God would be the author of sin. 

But though it must be admitted that there 
is a sense in which God may justly be said 
to be the author even of moral evil, which, 
indeed, the Scripture itself teaches, when it 
says that God hardened the heart of Pha- 
raoh, and that he predestinated the death of 
Christ, and though divine revelation thus 
confirms the doctrine of enhghtened reason, 
and the true philosophy of mind, that no 
evil, natural or moral, can exist without the 
foresight, the permission, and even the ap- 
pointment of God, nevertheless it by no 
means follows, that God is in such a sense 
the author, as to be the approver of sin, that 
he chooses it for its own sake, or that he 
would even suffer it to exist in the universe, 
any further than its existence is absolutely 
essential to the production of a greater sum 
of rectitude and happiness than could pos<^ 
sibly have existed without it. Moral evil 
must always be regarded as in its nature 

foreknown and appointed by God. 103 

most odious to God, the existence of which 
shall be endured no longer than may be ab- 
solutely necessary for accomplishing the 
purposes of the divine government. 

Secondly, It has been urged, that accord- 
ing to the doctrine which has been advanced^ 
there is no merit in virtue, nor demerit in 

But this objection is founded wholly 
upon the incorrectness of our ideas, and the 
imperfection of language. By merit is fre* 
quently understood some quality in virtue 
which challenges reward, independently of 
its natural and beneficial consequences. 
But if this be the true definition of merit, I 
freely confess that I am totally at a loss to 
know what that quality is, by which a crea- 
ture can confer an obligation upon its Crea- 
tor. And I can only reply in the language 
of the apostle. Who has first given to him, 
and it shall be recompensed to him again ? 
Let the claim be made out, and eternal 
Justice will pay the debt, and award to 
every one that which is his due. 

On the other hand, if by demerit is to be 

104 Actions and Events 

understood some quality in a vicious action, 
which requires punishment, independently 
of any beneficial consequences which may 
result to the sufferer himself, or to others, 
either as remedial or monitory, I am at a 
loss to know what this quality may be. 
But if God be really, as we are justly in- 
structed to believe, the former of light and 
the creator of darkness, the maker of peace 
and the creator of evil, this glorious doc- 
trine at once puts an end to all doubt and 
difficulty concerning the popular notions of 
merit and demerit. 

If virtue consists, as it unquestionably 
does, in love to God and benevolence to 
man, and in the wise discipline of the affec- 
tions ; if merit consists in those qualities 
which entitle the subject of them to vene- 
ration and love ; if vice consists in aliena- 
tion from God, in malevolence to man, in 
the want of a proper degree of self-govern- 
ment, and in the dislocation of the moral 
powers ; if demerit is that quality which 
makes a man contemptible and odious to 
himself, and which degrades him in the es- 

foreknown and appointed by God. 105 

timation of the wise and good^ then it is 
certain that these qualities have a real ex- 
istence, and a very powerful influence 
under the divine government, and are per- 
fectly consistent with the doctrine that all 
eviJ, natural and moral, is foreknown, per- 
mitted, and controlled by the providence of 

Thirdly, it is objected, that upon this 
supposition, the rewarding of virtue would 
be usekss, and the punishment of vice un- 

But the true reward of virtue is peace of 
mind, and that exquisite and refined feli- 
city which is the natural and necessary re- 
sult of a virtuous course, where there is no 
external physical evil to check and coun- 
teract it: for to say that virtue exempts 
from bodily suffering is falsehood and non- 
sense. Peace is the never-failing offspring 
of a well-governed mind, the precious fruit 
of love to God, and benevolence to man : 
the habitual resident in that breast in which 
all the affections dwell in perfect harmony, 
and where reason and piety superintend 

106 Actions and Events 

and govern the whole. Under the divine 
government, therefore, it appears both fit 
and necessary that virtue should meet with 
its due and natural reward. 

The principal difficulty is that which 
relates to the punishment of the wicked ; 
for what justice, it is said, is there in 
punishing the unhappy wretch, who is 
first doomed to commit the offence for 
which he is afterwards doomed to suffer. 
The apostle Paul saw, and states in the 
clearest language, the same objection to the 
doctrine of predestination, as it is com- 
monly called, which he had himself been 
teaching, as applicable to the case of Jews 
and Gentiles, and which he illustrates by 
the example of Pharaoh. (Rom. ix. 17.) 
The Scripture saith, concerning Pharaoh, 
for this cause have I raised thee up, that 
I might show forth my power in thed. 
Therefore hath he mercy upon whom he 
will have mercy, and whom he will he 
hardeneth. The apostle then starts the 
objection, "Thou wilt then say unto me^ 
why doth he yet find fault, for who hath 

foreknown and appointed by God. 107 

resisted his will?'' And he solves the diffi- 
culty by appealing to the right which the 
Supreme Being possesses to dispose of his 
creatures as he pleases, without being ac- 
countable to any. " Nay, but, O man ! 
who art thou that repliest against God? 
Shall the thing formed say to him that 
formed it. Why hast thou made me thus ? 
Hath not the potter power over the clay, 
of the same mass to make one vessel to ho- 
nour and another to dishonour. 

This reply rather silences the objector 
than solves the difficulty. Nor could the 
inquisitive and well informed mind ever be 
satisfied with the common remark, that 
men are justly punishable, because it was 
in their power in every case to have acted 

In truth, the popular idea of the punish- 
ment due to vice is erroneous in the ex- 
treme. Men figure to themselves a re- 
vengeful Deity, full of wrath and indigna- 
tion, who punishes sin for its own sake, to 
gratify his own resentment, and with no re- 
gard either to the reformation of the of- 

108 Actions and Ecents 

fender, or to the public good : not duly 
considering that these are the only ends for 
which punishment can be justly inflicted; 
and are, therefore, the only motives which 
can with reason be ascribed to the Supreme 

It must needs be that offences come ; but 
woe be to the man by whom they come. 
A certain portion of moral evil was seen to 
be unavoidable, we know not why, in a 
system upon the whole the wisest and best-; 
and when the end for which it was per- 
mitted shall be accomplished, vice must be 
exterminated: the natural and proper 
means for this purpose is natural evil; and 
this, when it shall have answered its end, 
will exterminate itself. 

This explains the sense in which the 
wicked are said to be punished, and vindi- 
cates the benevolence of God in their con- 
demnation. When the wicked have an- 
swered the purpose for which their exist- 
ence has been tolerated under the divine 
government, it becomes necessary that 
their wickedness should be exterminated ; 

foreknown and appointed by God. 109 

and to this end it is needful to place them 
under a process of sufferings the severity 
of which will be proportioned to their of- 
fences ; but in every case will be great and 
insupportable; far greater, in all proba- 
bility, than they ever expected or con- 
ceived, and such as will cause them to cry 
out, that it had been better for them if they 
had never been born. This we call the 
just punishment of their offences. But the 
design of this suffering is not to gratify the 
resentment of the judge, but gradually to 
purify the unhappy sufferer from the pol- 
lution of vice, and to prepare and qualify 
him for that state of perfect virtue and 
happiness which we have reason to believe 
will be the final portion of all the rational 
creatures of God. This glorious doctrine, 
if not expressly taught, is at least greatly 
favoured by the Christian Scriptures; and 
so far as we can judge, it is the only suppo- 
sition which can reconcile the dispensations 
of the divine government to the paternal 
character of God. 

Hence we justly and triumphantly con- 

1 10 Actions and Events foreknomif ^. 

elude, that as God is the immediate author 
of all good, so, on the other hand, it is 
equally manifest that no evil, whether na- 
tural or moral, exists without his foreknow- 
ledge, and under his appointment and 



Rom. be. 19, SO. 

Thou TBiU say then unto me. Why doth he yet Jind fault f 
for who hath resisted his zoUlf Nay^ buty O num^ mho 
art thou that repliest against Godf 

Few who have admitted the divine autho- 
rity of the Jewish and Christian revelation 
have ever expressed a doubt of the univer- 
sal extent, and the distinct precision, of the 
divine foreknowledge; that the Supreme 
Being possesses a clear and comprehensive 
view of all events, past, present, and to 
come ; and this, whether they are the na- 
tural results of mechanical laws, or alto- 
gether dependent upon the designs and ac- 
tions of voluntary and intelligent agents. 

The beautiful and necessary consequence 
of the divine foreknowledge, combined with 
the equally important and demonstrable 

1 1 !2 Moral Agency consistent 

attributes of unlimited power and good- 
ness, is the doctrine of the all-knowing, all- 
governing providence of God, which ex- 
tends to all creatures, and to all events, 
whether physical or moral; not only to 
those which are the necessary result of the 
laws of nature, but to all the actions of vo- 
luntary and intelligent agents, and to the 
events which are combined with them, atid 
result from them, in all their remotest con- 
nexions and consequences, both to indivi- 
duals and to society. 

The connexion of the doctrine of divine 
providence, with that of the divine pre- 
science, is so distinct and inseparable, that 
no one can, with the least appearance of con- 
sistency, admit the one and deny the other. 
When God began to act he distinctly fore- 
saw, through the utmost extent of boundless 
space, and of endless duration, all the events 
which would actually take place in the 
universe, and the manner in which every 
intelligent being would act in the circum- 
stances in which he was to be placed. If 
he had then seen that the conduct of an 

tmth Divine Foreknowledge. 113 

individual, in any circumstances, would 
have been inconsistent with his grand de- 
sign, and would have in any the slightest 
degree interfered with his original and per- 
fect plan, it was in his power to have va- 
ried his scheme in such a manner as to 
have produced a different effect, and to. 
have limited and controlled the designs 
and actions of every individual in such a 
manner as to bring them, without any vio- 
lence or compulsion, within the plan of his 
providence. Hence we infer the mo- 
mentous and delightful truth, that there is 
in the universe but one governing will, 
that all events are carried on in one uni- 
form course, to an issue most honourable 
to the divine perfections, and that all the 
various contending wills of subordinate 
agents, whether they know, intend, and 
approve it, or not, are controlled and over- 
ruled in such a way as may be most sub- 
servient to the design of the benevolent 

This glorious doctrine has lately en- 
gaged much of our attention, and I know 


1 14 Moral Ageiuy consistent 

of DO other truth, the firm belief of which 
possesses so direct and powerful a tendency 
to cheer, to tranquillize, and to animate the 
mind, to reconcile us to the perplexities 
and the vicissitudes of the present state, 
and to inspire that habitual confidence and 
joy, which no external vicissitudes or dis- 
appointments can disturb. 

I am, however, sensible that some in- 
telligent and candid persons are disposed 
to think that this sublime doctrine is inn 
consistent with the moral agency, and the 
accountable nature of man, and for this 
reason they admit the doctrine with rc^ 
luctance, being apprehen^ve that it iray 
abate the motives to virtue, and may ren- 
der bad men easy in the commission of 
crimes. It is said, if all the tboirghts!, the 
affections^ and the actions of men are fere- 
known to God, and are essential parts of 
the divine plan, where can be the metit of 
good, OF the demerit of evil actions!^ where 
is the wisdom of reward, or the justke of 
punishment ? 

This difficulty, this great apparent <kffh 

tsdth Divine Foreknowledge. 115 

culty, which has already been gbanced at in 
the precedingdiscourse, presse&with so much 
weight upon many candid and ingenuous 
minds, that it .merits a closer examination 
than has hitherto been bestowed upon it ; 
and I shall be very happy if I can propose 
such a solution of it as will leave the serious 
and reflecting mind in full possession of that 
consolation which the doctrine of the divine 
foreknowledge, and of the over-ruling pro- 
vidence of God, is calculated to afford ; and 
ut the same time, to demonstrate, what, 
to my own apprehension, is clearer than 
light, that this doctrine is perfectly con- 
sistent with the moral agency and ac- 
countable nature of man, and with the 
wisdom and equity of reward and punish- 

If any are disposed to doubt the pro- 
priety of treating upon a subject of this 
nature in a popular discourse, and before a 
mixed congregation, I plead the example 
and authority of the apostle in the text 
The epistle from which these words are 
takeo was addressed to the mixed congre- 


116 Moral Agency candstent 

gation of Christians at Rome, who were 
but lately coDverted to the Christian faith, 
and many of whom were certainly not so 
well informed as the general body of 
thinking and serious Christians are in the 
present day ; and yet the apostle treats at 
length of the sublime doctrine of the fore- 
knowledge of God, and of its natural and 
necessary consequences. And the objec- 
tion in the text is stated in the most 
pointed language. After having drawn 
the strong and just conclusion, ''Therefore 
he hath mercy upon whom he will have 
mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth,'' 
he immediately, and naturally, starts the 
obvious objection, ** Why then doth he yet 
find fault, for who hath resisted his will?*' 
And he immediately suggests an answer ta 
the difficulty, which must, without ques- 
tion, impose silence upon those who be- 
lieve in the Almighty power of God, and 
which will abundantly satisfy those who 
regard this awful attribute as necessarily 
connected with unerring wisdom, and with 
unchangeable and everlasting benevolence..' 

with Ditmc Foreknowledge. 1 17 

I am not. ignorant that there are some 
who undervalue the authority of Paul; 
but I hesitate not to avow that I am not 
one of that sect of philosophers, who hold 
in low estimation the writings of this ve- 
nerable missionary of Christ. Believing, as 
1 do, in common with Locke and other esti- 
mable and learned commentators of Scrip- 
ture, that Paul really was, as he describes 
himself, an apostle, *' not of men, nor by man, 
but of and by Jesus Christ/' (Gal. i. 9), to 
whom the gospel was communicated by 
Christ himself, and who was selected and 
appointed by him to promulgate his doc- 
trine to the gentile world. I doubt not 
his complete qualifications for his honour- 
able office. 1 bow with submission to his 
apostolic authority; and I receive, with 
unreserved assent and acquiescence what- 
ever he teaches in the name and as the de- 
legate of his exalted master. In following 
the example of this great apostle in speak- 
ing truths, however unusual or unpopular, 
whatever censure may be incurred from 
uninformed but well-intentioned persons, I 

118 Moral Agency coTMstent 

cannot belic?e that I sball greatly err; 
and, in fact, who is there that thinks at all, 
who has not at times been puzzled and 
perplexed in his endeavours to reconcile 
the foreknowledge of God with the moral 
agency and the accountable nature of 
man? And who is there that would not 
wish to have his mind relieved from this 
painful embarrassment, so as to be able, 
without hesitation or anxiety, to repose a 
calm, a cheerful, and unlimited confidence 
in the government of God, as infinitely 
wise, righteous, and benevolent? To auch 
thoughtful and serious inquirers I hope 
that the considerations which I now pro- 
ceed to offer, may afford some reasonable 

A moral agent is a being that is capable 
of virtue and vice: and that agent is 
justly said to be accountable who is liable 
to be treated in exact correspondence to 
the merit or demerit of his character; to 
be rewarded for his virtue, and to be pu- 
nished in exact proportion to his offences. 

The creatures of God are made for hap- 

with Divine Foreknowledge. 119 

pioess ; and that system of affections, and 
that course of conduct which has the most 
direct tendency to produce individual and 
social happiness, is virtue: and, on the 
contrary, that system of affections, and 
that course of conduct which tends to the 
diminution of happiness, or to the produc- 
tion of misery, is vice. Virtue, therefore, 
is the same as wisdom ; it is the best means 
of attaining the best ends to ourselves and 
others. And vice is/o% ; it is the pursuit 
of happiness by means which are subver- 
sive of it, and which lead to misery. 

Virtue consists in the love of God, and 
our neighbour ; and in the due regulation 
of the affections and passions. 

To love God is to form just ideas of his 
attributes and character, to regard him as 
perfect in wisdom, power, and goodness, 
and to acknowledge and venerate him as 
the righteous and benevolent governor of 
the universe. It is to think of him with 
complacency, to be grateful for his mer- 
cies, to place unlimited confidence in his 
care and providence, to be wholly resigned 

120 Moral Agency consistent 

to his will, and to yield unreserved obe- 
dience to his commands. This is a state 
of mind which best becomes rational crea- 
tures, and which cannot but be directly 
and powerfully conducive to the happi- 
ness of a rational and moral agent. 

Next to devotion, the most exalted sen- 
timent is benevolence; and benevolence, 
combined with piety, forms the most ex- 
alted character, and insures the truest and 
best happiness of man. When an intel^ 
ligent creature extends itself beyond the 
narrow circle of self- gratification ; whed 
his own interest is absorbed in a generous 
feeling for the happiness of others; when 
his own sorrows are forgotten in his en- 
deavours to soothe and mitigate the sor- 
rows of those around him ; when he is ready 
to forego his own advantage to promote the 
interest of others, and to make the greatest 
sacrifices of present gratification to the pub- 
lic good; when his public affections rise 
above the contracted sphere of party pre^ 
judice and local distinctions; when he re-^ 
gards every man as a brother, and consi« 

mth Divine Foreknowledge. 121 

d€rs every one as possessing a claim to his 
beneficence, who is placed within the sphere 
of his exertions; in short, when all his af- 
fections centre in benevolence, and his 
chief solicitude and most earnest exertions 
are called forth in doing good, this man 
is truly virtuous and truly wise. He has 
attained that perfection and dignity of 
character to which the discipline of di- 
vine Providence, and the instructions and 
discoveries of the Christian religion are in- 
tended to elevate him, and he cannot but 
possess the truest, most heartfelt satisfac- 
tion, and the most exalted and substantial 

Benevolence, which hath its foundation 
in true piety, will naturally give birth to 
temperance, sobriety, and self-government ; 
and experience teaches, that moderation in 
sensible gratifications is tlie true way to 
enjoy them best, and that 410 man can be 
either respectable, useful, or happy, wliose 
mind is the seat of ungovernable passions, 
and, like the stormy ocean, incapable of 

122 Moral Agency consistent 

The natural tendency of virtue, there- 
fore, is to happiness. And if, as the dreary 
system of infidelity would teach us, no betr 
ter state of existence is to succeed the pre- 
sent, nevertheless, self-government, and ac- 
tive benevolence, would generally lead to 
the highest satisfaction which the condition 
of human nature in this transitory and pre- 
carious state of existence would allow, or, 
in popular language, virtue would in gene* 
ral, even in the present life, be its own re- 

But the Christian religion opens to view 
k far brighter and more glorious prospect. 
It assures the virtuous that they are to be 
raised again to a new and improved state 
of existence. And if they rise with all their 
virtuous habits and affections in full vigour, 
they must necessarily rise to happiness. 
And being placed, as there is every reason 
to hope, in a state in which these affec- 
tions will be in constant exercise, the natu- 
ral consequence will be, the continual aug- 
mentation and accelerated improvement of 
these exalted affections, and with it the 

with Divine Foreknowledge. 123 

perpetually increasing happiness of the vir- 
tuous agent. 

Now this, in popular language, is the 
final and everlasting reward which awaits 
the virtuous in a future life. Under the 
goveroQ^ent of God it is irrevocably or- 
dained, that he who is perfectly virtuous, 
shall ultimately be perfectly happy. And 
we may be assured, that under the govern- 
ment of Omnipotent Benevolence, no ex- 
ternal circumstance shall be permitted fi- 
nally to counteract the natural and neces- 
sary tendencies of virtuous affections and 
virtuous conduct to pure and unmingled 

Further, Those virtuous affections and 
habits which constitute the virtuous charac- 
ter, are the result of that discipline to which 
the mind is subjected in this its probationary 
state. Piety, benevolence, magnanimity, 
fortitude, temperance, and the other vir- 
tues, are not the spontaneous growth of the 
uncultivated mind. I am far from allow- 
ing, what, indeed, appears to be contra- 
dicted by the clearest evidence, and what 

124 Moral Agency consistent 

is, indeed, a most unfounded and inexcus- 
able libel upon the divine character, that 
men are born sinners, liable to God's wrath 
and curse, or that human nature is essen- 
tially depraved. But as the richest soil 
will, if it remains uncultivated, produce no- 
thing but weeds and rubbish, so the human 
mind will not flourish in virtue, unless it is 
subjected to a suitable process of cultiva- 
tion. Where self is the primary object^ 
selfish passions, and a selfish spirit will be 
the natural and necessary result : where 
passion is indulged, it will soon become ex- 
orbitant and uncontrollable : and a gene- 
rous spirit can only be acquired by a course 
of generous actions : mental fortitude can 
only be attained by habitual self-denial : 
and piety is the genuine result of just con- 
ceptions of the Divine Being, and habitual 
meditation upon his greatness and his good- 

Now, the providence of God assigns to 
every individual the situation in which he 
is placed, and the impressions to which he 
is exposed, with the certain and distinot 

mth Divine Foreknowledge. 125 

foreknowledge of the natural result of these 
circumstances and impressions. AH the 
virtues, therefore, of the human character, 
are justly to be ascribed to God as their 
author. He orders the circumstances of 
birth and education. The tender parent, 
the faithful guardian, the pious and prudent 
instructor, are his gift. It is he who guards 
the unwary heart from the fatal infection 
of evil company, and of bad example, and 
that fortifies the mind against dangerous 
temptation. He orders those circumstances, 
instructions, and events, which awaken and 
encourage a sense of piety and virtue, 
which check the first tendencies to dissipa- 
tion and immorality, which excite the pious 
affections, which form the amiable, the use- 
ful, and the exemplary character. His 
gentle, but all-commanding influence gives 
efficacy to every valuable impression. All 
are his gift. All is his workmanship. And 
they who are most eminent for virtue, have 
always been most eminent for humility, 
and most ready to acknowledge, with the 
holy apostle, '^ By the grace of God I am 

126 Moral Agency c(miM€9it 

what I am. Not I, but the grace of God 
which was with me/' 

. But where then, it may be said, is the 
merit of virtue ? I answer, that the merit 
of virtue consists^ iM)t in its laying the Su- 
preme Being under any obligation to re- 
ward it, the supposition of which is ab- 
surdity in the extreme, but in its natuial 
and neoessary tendency to produce indivi- 
dual and social happiness. And all the 
reward which virtue can claim, or desire, 
as far as* we are able to judge, consistSiiii 
the removal of those obstructions which^ in 
the present state so often counteract the 
natural tendencies of virtue, and in giving 
free and unlimited scope to its afiections, 
powers, and exertions. In the present state 
of probation^ a truly pious and virtuous 
character may be made unhappy by cor* 
poreal or mental pains, by witnessing the 
distresses or the misconduct of others, or 
by the want of sufficient means and oppor- 
tunities of gratifying the benevolent and 
virtuous affections. But the Christian doc- 
trine reveals a new and better state of be^ 

with Dwine Foreknowledge. 127 

ing, in which all tears shall be wiped away^ 
and wherein every pious and benevolent 
feeling, being maintained in constant and 
vigorous exercise^ and uncontrolled by any 
external impediment, shall in harmonious 
combination constitute a rich and over- 
flowing source of exquisite and endless gra- 

We are prone to annex literal interpre- 
tations to figurative expressions, and to in- 
dulge gross and unreasonable expectations 
upon the subject of ^ftiture judgment. We 
we ready to conceive that the parties will 
be summoned to a grand tribunal, will un- 
dergo a public trial, and that some positive 
reward will follow a solemn and public ver- 
dict in their favour. But these expecta* 
tiofis countenanced as they appear to be 
by the popular language of the New Tes- 
tament, are not to be indulged too far. All 
that we can safely rely upon is, that in the 
ultimate arrangement of things, they who 
are virtuous will, by the power of Alnrighty 
God, be raised fiom the sleep of death, and 
by his rich and sovereign goodness will be 

128 Moral Agency consistent 

advanced to a state of unchangeable and 
everlasting happiness, corresponding with 
the virtues and excellences of their cha- 

The present character, and the final state 
of the zmcked, are in all points analogous 
to those of the righteous, and equally re- 
concileable to the wisdom, the power, and 
the benevolence of the Supreme Being. 

The action, the affection, the habit, the 
character that tends to misery, is vice, from 
which it necessarily follows, that the beiog 
who is wicked must also be miserable. 

Impiety, ingratitude, malignity, selfish- 
ness, and intemperance, are vices; they are 
diseases of the mind ; they are inconsistent 
with the happiness of the agent ; they are 
hostile to the general good. 

Vice tends naturally to its own punish- 
ment, and thereby to its own extermination. 
The selfish man, wrapped in the mean and 
narrow web of private interest ; the malig- 
nant wretch, who delights to see and to ag- 
gravate the misery of others ; and the in- 

zsnth Dioine Foreknowledge. 129 

temperate man, who is the slave of the low- 
est appetites of his nature, are incapable of 
true and rational enjoyment, and often en- 
tail upon themselves and others disgrace 
and misery, even in the present life. If 
there were no future state of existence, vice 
wQuld. not. escape condign punishment: it 
would be its own tormentor. 

Eut the gospel, and that alone, teaches 
the . awful and alarming truth, that the 
zricked, equally with the righteous, will be 
restored to life. It explicitly and solemnly 
declares, that there will be a resurrection 
both of the just and of the unjust. 

But if the wicked rise, they must, in the 
nature of things, rise to mfferiiig. It can- 
not be otherwise. If men . descend into 
their graves hardened in impiety, in malig- 
nity, in impurity, in selfishness, in intem- 
perance, when restored to life they must 
rise with the same habits, and in the same 
character, or they would no longer be the 
same persons. But if vicious, they must ne- 
cessarily be miserable. The contrary sup- 
position involves a contradiction in terms. 


150 Moral Agency cmmtent 

If, then, there be a future state for the 
wicked, that state cannot but be a state of 
suffering, or, in popular language, the wick- 
ed will hereafter be punished for their 

But the Scriptures lead us to conclude, 
that the wicked in a future life will be tx* 
posed to a far greater severity of punish- 
ment than they ever experienced in their 
probationary state. As in the present woild 
there are many circum^nces which appear 
to counteract, in a considerable degree^ tlie 
natural tendency of virtue to happioetBy 
which will be removed in a future afiMl tet- 
ter conditioii of being, so as to leave free 
and unrestrained scope to virtuous affecCicm 
and exertion; so, on the contrary, as in 
the present mixed and imperfect state there 
are many circumstaxices which counteract 
in a considerable degree, the tendency of 
vice to misery, such as vigorous health, gay 
society, the attainment of the objects <ti 
exorbitant ambition, and the like. But in 
a future state of existence, all these inip&» 
diments to the prevalence of vicious aflfec* 

with Dwine Fordhnmkdge. 131 

tioBs, and their miserable consequences, 
will be removed, and the whole soul will 
be overwhelmed with a flood of ungratified 
affections, and bitter remorse, and shama. 
Thus Che misery of the sufferer will be in 
exact proportion to his crimes. A con- 
sequence which must occur, in the natural 
course of things, without lany immediate 
infliction of the Divine Being. The worm 
of conscience will prey incessantly upon the 
'beartrstrings, and the fire of domineering 
passions will rage in th^ vitals. 

Tbe expedience and utility of this severer 
pmeess of discipline is obvious to the rer 
fleeting n^ind. Under the government of 
infinite wisdom and goodness, no punish- 
ment can be vindictive. The very suppo- 
sition of it is repugnant to every just con- 
ception of the divine character. The ten- 
dency and the design of suffering is to ex- 
terminate vice; and the more acute the 
suflfeiiogs to which vice will be exposed, the 
sooner will the end be answered, the sooner 
will 4^ wicked become sensible of their 
K 2 

132 Moral Agency consistent 

folly, and the sooner will they be reclaimed 
to virtue and to happiness. 

And here it may be observed, that the 
sufferings of the wicked in a future life will 
probably be far more intense and insup- 
portable than the erring and partial judg- 
ment of man would lead us to conceive. 
There is in the present state so much more 
evil/ natural and moral, than we antece- 
dently should have thought probable, ac- 
cording to our erroneous conceptions of 
things, that it is impossible even to conjec- 
ture what quantity of evil it may be expe- 
dient to admit under the divine govern- 
ment, as necessary to the accomplishment 
of its final purpose. 

In the present state the wicked are often 
great sufferers by their vices, so that exist- 
ence itself becomes a burden to them, and 
that without producing any change in their 
character, any sincere contrition or repent- 
ance, not even when they flee to death 
itself as a refuge from the torment, of a 
guilty mind. What intensity, then, of pain. 

tenth Divine Foreknowledge. 133 

what duration of suffering will be requisite 
to bring the unhappy culprit to a proper 
sense of his guilt, and to purify him from 
all moral pollution. How often will he 
wish that he had never been born, and how 
earnestly will he seek for death when it 
will flee from him. This consideration is 
enough to alarm sinners to the utmost 
extent of their faculties, and abundantly 
proves that the doctrine which teaches that 
the future punishment of the wicked is a 
state of discipline for the correction of vice^ 
and the reformation of the offender, is far 
from affording any encouragement to sin. 

In this important sense, every one of us 
will give an account of himself unto God, 
and will receive according to the deeds 
done in the body, whether they be good or 

In the popular language of Scripture, 
images are borrowed from courts of justice, 
and from human tribunals. Whether any 
external solemnities will actually take place, 
corresponding with these figurative and 
striking representations, it is impossible ta 

134 Moral Agency canststent 

ascertain, and useless to inquire. It is 
enough for us to know^ that the wicked 
shall go into condign punishnaent, aod the 
righteous shall enter into everlastiog life. 

1 addi further, that as vices, like virtues, 
are the foreknown results of the situations 
in which men are originally placed, and of 
the impressions to which they are exposed* 
the unhappy wretch whose accumulated 
crimes render him the victim of public jus- 
tice, had he been placed in different oir^ 
cumstances, had he enjoyed a difieraiit 
education, had he been supplied with vir« 
tuous instruction, example admonitioD^miid 
discipline, might and would have been as 
eminent for virtue as he is now notorious 
for crime. Atid the most perfect cbaradbcn 
that ever adorned the world, wouM^ in op^ 
posite circumstances, have become tlie 
worst of malefactors. We have high au- 
thority to assert, that if Sodom and Go« 
ttiorrah had enjoyed the privileges of Ofao* 
razin and Bethsaida, they would have he^ 
come penitent, virtuousi, and prosp^rouoi 
and would wholly have escaped their 

mth Divhc Fortknawledge. 135 

wretched doom. All this must have been 
clearly and circumstantially foreknown to 
the aU*comprehending mind of God. The 
consequence is evident. Evil, as well as 
GOOD, proceeds from him. Or, as it is well 
expressed by the venerable founder* of this 
congregation, in his excellent Discourses 
upon the Divine Government (p. 143), 
^' Not only sickness, and pain, and disease, 
in. all its shapes, desolating storms, earth- 
quakes, famine, pestilence, war, and the 
ordinary and less common calamities of 
U&, but the horrid cruelties, injustice, and 
oppression, &c., with which individuals, 
and sometimes whole countries have had 
to struggle for a longer or a shorter space, 
all these natural and moral evils are from 
Godf and under his sovereign control." 

From this view of the case, how natui^l 
and almost inevitable is the objection in 
the text i Why then doth he yet find fault, 
for who hath resisted his will ? Why hath 
God permitted, and even appointed moral 
evil U> exist ? Why are the wicked blamed ? 

* The Reverend Theophilus Lindsey. 

1 36 Moral Agency comnstent 

Why are they punished ? What motive can 
there be to repentance and reformation? 

Nay, but, O man, who art thou that re- 
pliest against God? Shall the thing formed 
say unto him that formed it. Why hast 
thou made me thus ? If the fact be, as I 
have already stated, and proved even to de- 
monstration, it is to no purpose to express 
dissatisfaction or discontent. The counsel 
of God shall stand, and he will do all his 
pleasure, whether we approve of it or not. 

But we are sure that God is all-wise, 
powerful, and good, and therefore we are 
sure that the system which he hath chosen 
to create, is in every, the minutest particu- 
lar, the wisest and the best. 

We are sure that God is a Being of per- 
fect rectitude: it is impossible, therefore, 
that he should have chosen evil, either na- 
tural or moral, for its own sake. He has 
permitted it to be introduced for no other 
reason but to accomplish purposes of the 
highest import, which could not have been 
accomplished without it. It may perhaps 
be impossible for any finite mind fully to 

mth Dvoine Foreknowledge. 137 

comprehend all the purposes for which evil 
was permitted to be introduced, or the be- 
nefits which may accrue from it. Some of 
these purposes are, however, sufficiently 
obvious. The odious and exorbitant vices 
of some give birth and scope to the sub- 
limest virtues in others. If there were no 
malice, no injustice, no oppression, what 
scope would there be for meekness and for- 
bearance, for forgiveness of injuries, for 
love to enemies, for requiting evil with 
good, for manly fortitude, for the generous 
patronage and protection of the oppressed? 
If there were no tyrants, there could be no 
patriots : if there were no persecutors, there 
could be no martyrs. Let us then believe, 
and surely it is no hard requisition, let us 
believe that no evil exists, but what the 
wisdom, power, and goodness of God will 
over-rule to the production of a greater 
good than could have existed without it. 

But further, why are the wicked to be 
blamed if their wickedness is appointed by 
God? I answer, that although their wick- 
edness is, in a certain sense, appointed by 

138 Moral Agency carmstent 

God, it is, nevertheless, wickedness still: 
not appointed, for its own sake, but for its 
subserviency to the general good; and» 
wherever it exists it cannot but be the ob* 
ject of moral disapprobation and disgust; 
and what we mean by blame is nothing 
more than the natural expression of this 
sentiment of disapprobation, which never* 
theless may, and ought to be accompanied 
with a strong feeKng of compassion to* 
wards the person of the offender. So we 
regard with horror the loathsome and oon* 
tagious disease ; we flee from its infecdoo, 
and warn others of the danger, while we, 
at the same time, pity, and feel it to be 
our duty, to the utmost of our power, to 
relieve the wretched sufferer. 

But why are the wicked to be punished 
at all ; the plain answer to this question 
is, because wickedness must be extermi<- 
nated ; and, because, under the divine go- 
vernment, it is the established law that 
moral evil is to be exterminated by natural 
evil ; that vice is to be eradicated by suf- 
fering ; and, that, under the govamment 

zsnth Divine Foreknowledge. 139 

of eternal justice and wisdom, these suf- 
ferings will in no case be of greater inten- 
8ity» or of longer duration than will be 
needful to the accomplishment of their 
proposed end. To ask why wickedness 
should be punished, is to ask, why a disease 
which threatens to be fatal, should be 
healed ; it is to inquire, why the dislocated 
limb should be restored to its socket. 

It may further be questioned, is it not hard 
that some should be appointed t6 vice and 
misery, while others are appointed to vir*^ 
tue and happiness ?^— But has not the potter 
power oyer the clay, of the same mass to 
make one vessel to honour and another to 
dishonour ? Can the fact be denied ? And 
has the creature a right to arraign the dis- 
pensations of his Maker? — Yes. The 
wicked would indeed have a right to com* 
plain of the existence which had been 
forced upon them, should that existence 
eventually prove a curse ; much more, i^ 
after a few ile^ng years ol' mixed and 
iauious existence upon earth, encompassed 
with iiiifirmities, and wrrounded by temp* 

140 Moral Agency consistent 

tations, they should eventually be con-^ 
signed^ (O, horrible thought ! never, never 
to be imputed to omnipotent benevolence,) 
to regions of never-ending misery and de- 
spair. But as to the rest, as no being can 
have a claim upon its Maker, no creature 
can have any right to complain of injus- 
tice, if upon the whole, the balance of hap- 
piness is in its favour, even though, after 
having passed through various stages of 
good and evil, it should ultimately be 
blotted out of existence. But the Christian 
religion opens a brighter prospect, and af- 
fords reason to hope that the sufferings of 
the wicked will be themselves remedial, 
that all who died in Adam shall be made 
alive in Christ, and that every one in his 
own order respectively, shall, when pro- 
perly prepared and qualified, be admitted 
to participate in his glorious triumph. 

It has further been asked, whether, upon 
the principles which have been advanced, 
a vicious man can have any reason to 
blame and condemn himself for any wicked 
action which he may cominit, or any vi- 

mth Divine Foreknowledge. 141 

cious affection which may exist in his 
bosom? — ^Unquestionably he has. It is 
impossible that it should be otherwise. 
While his bad heart is the odious se;at of 
selfishness, of envy, and of other vile and 
malignant affections and passions, in what- 
ever way these miserable feelings gained 
possession of his mind, while they continue 
there, they must be the hateful source of 
confusion and wretchedness, and he can- 
not but regard himself with loathing and 
abhorrence. His mind will be like the 
troubled sea. when it cannot rest. It 
might, with equal propriety be asked, 
whether the sufferer under the pangs of an 
acute disease should complain of his bitter 
agonies, and seek for relief. 

Finally, can the wicked feel any motive 
to repentance and reformation ; or must he 
sit down with folded arms, and sullen ac- 
quiescence, in his character and his doom ? 

By no means. All is indeed of God, 
and all for good ; and all will come to pass 
as God foresees, intends, and appoints. 
But, in all cases, man's ignorance of the 

142 Moral Agency carmstent 

divine purpose must, and will, and ought 
to operate as a stimulus to exertion, ex<* 
actly as though the event itself were in its 
own nature uncertain. Who is there that 
neglects the proper means of preserving 
life because he is assured that the time, the 
place, and the circumstances in which he 
shall leave the world, are already fore-* 
known and appointed by God? What 
husbandman is there that declines to plough 
the ground, and to sow the seed, because 
God foreknows whether there will be a 
scanty or an abundant harvest? and aU 
must come to pass as God foresees, aqd bM 
fore-ordained that it shall. Precisely 40 
the wicked man knows not what mercy 
may be in store for him. But on^ thing 
he knows as certain : that if he n^evts 
the mows he will idifallibly miss th^ iieiKl ; 
that if he perseveres in vice it will assuredly 
t^raiflQate in misery ; and that it will be » 
fearful thing to fall into the hands of tihe 
Uviog >God. 

Not kmowijag the decrees of God, it aiu$t 
be coQsuQHDate foUy Sor ^uy one to »c% as 

with Dimat Fortknawkdge. 143 

though he were informed of them. To 
every individual^ as to any practical pur- 
pose, they are as if they had no existence. 
Without perplexing himself, therefore, by 
eadeavouring to fathom what is beyond 
his line, let every one resolve to exart the 
same energy, and the same resolution and 
perseverance in the acquisition of virtuous 
habits, which he is conscious that he pos- 
sesses, and which he would not hesitate to 
exert for the attainment of any other va- 
luable object. 

Resolute and persevering exertion, with 
the divine blessing, will insure success. 
Therefore work out your salvation with 
fear and trembling, while God worketh in 
you to will and to do. 

I shall conclude in the words of that 
treatise of my venerable predecessor, which 
I have already cited, and which he be- 
queathed as his last legacy to his affec- 
tionate flock. '' From what has been said, 
it appears that if God be charged any way 
with being the author of men's sins, it is 
not in any such sense as to acquit the per- 

144 Moral Agency consistent, ^. 

petrator^ or so as to excuse them, even in 
their own estimate, from being responsible 
at the tribunal of that Being, whose laws, 
calculated for their own good, and the 
general good of all, they have presumed to 



Romans^ xi. 36. 

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things, 
to whom he glory for ever. 

No doctrine seems to have impressed the 
apostle's mind more forcibly and habi- 
tually than that of the uiiiverss^l, all-com- 
prebending, all-governing providence of 
God ; and this doctrine appears to have 
been to him, as it justly might, and indeed 
necessarily must be to every virtuous mind 
who rightly apprehends it/an inexhaustible 
source of satisfaction and delight. " Of him, 
tod through him, and to him, are all things." 
As though he had said, all thihgs originate 
in his councils; all are accomplished by 
his providence; all are subservient to his 
puiposes. He, therefore, is the sole and 


1 46 Plan of Frtmdence 

worthy object of all adoration, blessing, 
and praise. 

This glorious and all-important doctrine 
has been the theme of our late meditations, 
and jt has been proved by evidence, which, 
if we admit the foreknowledge of Grod, it 
seems impossible to resist, that the provi- 
dence of God extends to all events, to the 
least as well as to the greatest ; and, not 
only to those which are the result of na* 
tural and mechanical causes, but those also 
which depend upon the voluntary actiohft 
of ioteiligent and moral agents; and this, 
without infringing in the least de^rad 
upon any useful, intelligible, or practical 
liberty, and Without any interference iriifi 
the mofal agency and accountableneSS of 
his rational creatures. All their actiddB and 
designs, and all events depending upiitl 
therii, to their remotest ramifications tttid 
consequehces, are included in bis gHMd 
and magnificent plan, add all are in cue 
way or another made subservient to fais be^ 
nevolent purposes. 86 that it knay tnily 
be said that there is ih the universe but omb 

conducted by general Laws. 147 

governing mil, by vrhich all inferior and 
subordinate wills are directed and con- 
trolled. There is 0N£ all-comprehending 
Being, to the execution of whose purposes 
all in their respective spheres contri||ute ; 
who is the cause of all causes ; and without 
whose permission and concurrence no de- 
sign can be formed^ and no purpose accom- 
phshed. This is the dictate of enlightened 
reason; this is the doctrine both of the 
Jewish and the Christian revelation. 

Upon this sublime and mysterious sub- 
ject the question has been proposed, whe- 
ther it would be necessary for the Supreme 
Being, in order to carry his benevolent and 
magnificent purposes into effect, to inter- 
pose occasionally to suspend the laws of 
nature, either of matter or of mind, in 
order to bring to pass events which would 
not have taken place in the regular course 
of tilings, but the existence of which is ne- 
cessary to the accomplishment of the divine 
purposes ; or whether general laws might 
not be so arranged from the beginning, as 
to bfing to pass every event in its proper 


148 Plan of Providence 

time and place, without any necessity for 
occasional interpositions, to rectify evils 
which would otherwise accrue from the 
inexorable operation of general rules. 

The popular opinion is unquestionably 
in favour of the hypothesis of frequent in- 
terpositions ; and it is commonly believed 
that the great Lord of Nature often sus- 
pends and controls the course of things, 
either for the aversion of evil, or the con- 
ferring of good ; and that, by his secret in- 
fluence upon the minds of intelligent and 
moral agents, he excites volitions and pro- 
duces correspondent effects, which would 
otherwise have had no existence. 

The language of Scripture is appealed 
to as giving countenance to this doctrine, 
which is usually called the doctrine of a 
particular providence, and of supernatural 
influence upon the mind. He is God, and 
there is none besides him ; he killeth,^ and 
he maketh aUve ; he woundeth, and his 
hands make whole ; he maketh poor, and 
he maketh rich ; he giveth rain from Hea- 
ven, and fruitful seasons; and filleth the 

conducted by general Laws. 149 

heart with food and gladness. The way 
of man is not in himself; it is not in man 
that walketh to direct his own steps. In 
all thy ways acknowledge God, and he will 
direct thy steps. These, and many other 
passages to the same effect are thought to 
countenance, and even to teach that the 
providence of God not unfrequently inter- 
poses to control and counteract the laws of 
nature* and to bring to pass events which 
constitute essential parts of the divine plan, 
but which would not have occurred under 
the unrestrained and unrelenting operation 
of general laws. 

It is further alleged, that it is hardly pos- 
sible that any general laws should be so 
constructed as not, in some cases, to be 
productive of evil. Also, that it is more 
pleasing to conceive of the Great Parent of 
all, as at all times present in every part of 
the Universal System^ watching the opera- 
tion of the rules by which he is pleased in 
general to conduct his operations for the ge- 
neral good, and to mitigate, control, or 
counteract them, as he sees reason, in order 

150 Plan of Providence 

to prevent their bringing to pass events 
which would thwart, or in any way inter- 
fere with, his wise and glorious plan ; ra- 
ther than to conceive that he has formed a 
system, excellent indeed, but which, when 
once set in motion, he leaves to take care 
of itself, and concerns himself no further 
with it. How delightful is it to regard the 
Almighty Father of the Universe as at all 
times present with his pious and dutiful 
children, watching their circumstances, pi- 
tying their sorrows, observing their wants, 
hearing their sighs, listening to their pray- 
ers, and at all times ready to comfort 
their hearts, to supply their wants, to guide 
them by his counsels, and to comply with 
their reasonable requests. Experience also 
is appealed to as confirming this pleasing 
supposition, and as giving its support to 
the doctrine of occasional divine interpo- 
sitions : to which we may add the general 
belief of all mankind, in all ages and coun- 
tries, wherever the doctrines of the divine 
existence and providence are known and 

wn^UCUd by gefierai Laws. 151 

But though it may be conceded that 
the power of God will most certainly carry 
ioto complete effect that plan of infinite be- 
nevolence which infinite wisdom has con- 
ceived, and that no law of nature, and 
no ignorance or perverseness of voluntary 
agients, shall be permitted to interfere with 
this grand design, or for a moment to im- 
pede its progress ; and though it is readily 
itdjnitted that all the powers of nature shall 
jbe suspended, and all the volitions of all in- 
telligent agents shall be controlled, sooner 
than the purpose of God shall fail ; it may 
9till b^ar a question, whether it be not 
more honourable to the divine character 
»ud government, and for that reason more 
probable, that the purposes of God should 
be accomplished generally, perhaps even 
mkersally, by the operation of laws ori- 
ginally constructed with exquisite wisdom 
and foresight, and adapted to every possible 
occurrence, rather than by those frequent 
interpositions, which many think necessary 
to check and supersede the laws of nature. 

152 Plan of Providence 

but which seem to indicate a want of skill 
in the original contrivance. 

There is nothing impossible in the suppo- 
sition of an original perfect constitution of 
laws, for the government both of the natu- 
ral and the intellectual worlds. 

There can be no difficulty in alio wing 
that the laws of the material world may 
have been so constituted from the beginning, 
and that their mutual influences upon each 
other may have been so admirably contrived 
and adjusted as to produce, at all tinies, in 
all places, and in all circumstances^ the very 
effects which were foreseen and intended. 
Indeed it is impossible that it should b^ 
otherwise. For these laws are constructed 
with such perfect and minute precision, that 
the intelligent astronomer is able to com- 
pute, and to predict with mathematical ac- 
curacy, the phenomena of nature which de- 
pend upon them, for ages before they come 
to pass. How much more, then, shall the 
Sovereign Architect of the Universe himself 
foresee with the most consummate exact* t 

conducted by general Laws. 153 

ness, the effect which will be produced by 
the laws which he has himself appointed, in 
all their various and complex influences and 
results, to the remotest period of duration. 

Equally easy would it be to divine power 
to place rational, intelligent, and account- 
able creatures in circumstances, and to sub- 
ject them to influences, the foreseen result 
of which, whether necessary or otherwise, 
would be a train of volitions, actions, and 
consequences, which, however unforeseen 
or unintended by the agent himself, and 
however contrary to his intentions and de- 
sires, would nevertheless most effectually 
accomplish the divine purposes. And in 
this view the bad passions of bad men, and 
their evil actions, as well as the good prin- 
ciples and actions of the virtuous, may be, 
and undoubtedly are, over-ruled by Divine 
Providence to the production of good. What 
did Joseph's brethren intend when they sold 
him as a slave ? What did the tyrant of 
Egypt propose when he oppressed the Is^ 
raelites ? What did the false apostle mean 
when he betrayed his master ? Neverthe- 

154 Fhn of Prmdencp 

less, these bad actions, prompted by the 
worst passions, were all over-ruled foF ^e 
best purposes; and bpth the actiop9» and 
their consequences, were foreseen, intended, 
and ordained from the beginning. '' I^nqwn 
unto God are all his works, from the fouji* 
dation of the world :" and '' JesM3 being de- 
livered by the determinate coun^l and fore- 
knowledge of God, by wicked hand^ was 
crucified and slain." 

Experience is favourable to the cooclu* 
fiioD that the world is governed by general 
laws, with few, or no occasional suspeasioos 
of them. The laws of nature cootiuue their 
operation from age to age, with invariable 
regulaiity. And our confidence in this uni- 
formity is more and more confirmed in pro- 
portion to the advance of physical science. 
Events, the causes of which were forpaerly 
unknown, and which were regarded jas su- 
pernatural, are now reducible to knowo and 
established laws. And if there are anyt as 
indeed there are many phenomena, the 
causes of which we are at present unable to 
explore, he would be thought a very super* 

conducted by general Laws. 155 

ficial reasoner, and a very slender proficient 
in the philosophy of nature, who should at- 
tribute such appearances to supernatural 
causes. The irregularity of the winds, and 
the curious and seemingly capricious phe* 
nomena of magnetism, electricity, and gal- 
vanism, inexplicable as they appear, are not 
therefore regarded as supernatural, but as 
the results of laws, which though now un- 
known, future philosophers will probably 

Nor is there any reason to believe, that 
the laws of mind are more frequently in* 
fringed than those of matter : and little 
credit is now given by wise men to those 
who make pretensions to supernatural sug- 

Unexpected events do indeed sometimes 
occur. Extraordinary deliverances and es- 
capes, which have almost the appearance 
of miracle. Thoughts sometimes suddenly 
rise in the mind, for which it is difficult to 
account, which seem to have no connexion 
with the existing train of ideas, and which. 

1 56 FUm of Providence 

nevertheless, have great influence upon the 
conduct, and give, perhaps, a new turn to 
our af&irs. These events, these suggestions, 
these deliverances, we ascribe without hesi- 
tation to God. And we do well. But have 
we any reason to believe that God has 
wrought a miracle in our favour? It would 
be presumption to suppose it. And our ob- 
ligations are the same to Divine Providence, 
if the suggestion, or the deliverance, occur 
in the natural order of things, as if it were 
brought to pass by miracle. For whether 
it take place in the common course of na- 
ture, or by special interposition, in either 
case it is equally the work of God. 

It has been objected, that general laws 
cannot be framed so as to apply to ^ch 
particular case, and that occasional suspen- 
sions are sometimes necessary to mitigate 
their rigour. And, so far as human govern- 
ments are concerned, the observation is per- 
fectly just. But who will presume to say 
that it is impossible for Infinite Wisdom to 
devise laws which shall, in every instance. 

conducted by genercd Laws. 1 57 

accomplish the purpose intended ? Let us 
take heed how we impute human infirmity 
to a Being absolutely perfect. 

The popular language of Scripture is not 
to be interpreted in too literal and rigorous 
a sense. The general doctrine is undoubt- 
edly true, that the interposition of God is to 
^e acknowledged in every event. He fore- 
sees, he permits, he accomplishes whatever 
comes to pass. Of him, and through him, 
and to him are all things. But to infer 
from these strong expressions of holy writ, 
that God interposes upon every emergence 
to suspend and control the ordinary course 
of nature, or, in other words, to alter his own 
usual mode of operation, would be erro- 
neous in the extreme. Such supposition 
Tfould be unworthy of the divine character, 
and would reduce infinite wisdom to a level 
with human fallibility, which is often sur- 
prised by unexpected events, and constrain- 
ed to adapt itself to circumstances which it 
did not foresee. 

That it is within the compass of Omnipo- 
tence to control the established course of 

1 58 Plafi of Providence 

nature^ abd that upon some extraordinary 
occasions God has actually interposed for 
this purpose, cannot be denied by any who 
found their faith upon the Jewish and Chris- 
tian revelations, that is, upon the miracles 
of Moses and of Jesus. But the admission 
of miraculous interposition, upon grave 6c- 
casidnsi and for the accomplishment of pur* 
poses of high importance, Wlii^h could not 
be effected by natural means, is a case very 
different from that of an every-day suspen- 
sion of the laws of nature. 

The doctrine that the universe is governed 
by general laws, and not by particular in- 
terpositionsi by no means excludes the pro- 
vidence and agency of God in all his works. 
For it is a fact, never to be forgotten, that 
the general law is as much the appointment, 
and even the express operation of God, as 
the particular exception. If water rolls 
down hill, rather than up, it is by the will 
and power of God, who appointed the law 
of nature, and by the same energy, and by 
that alone, could its direction be changed, 
and the law of nature reversed. It is by the 

condueted by genemi Laws. \6& 

af>pointndent of the Creator that the suti 

performs his daily course ; and it was by the 

same appointment, and by that alone, that 

the sun stood still in the days of Joshua, or 

returned fifteen degrees back upon the dial 

of Hezekiah, however those mit*acles may 

bb explained. True philosophy teaches us 

to see God in every thing: in the least 

events, as well as in the greatest: in the 

most ordinary appearances of nature, as 

well as in the most extraordinary and asto* 

nishing interpositions of his power. His 


'* WartUd in the Buta, iHfresheA in the bre^z^, 
Glows ih the tttts, ud UdmomB in the tfeeB*" 

If it be asked. What is the use of prayer, 
if all things come to pass by general and 
established laws? I would ahswer, first, 
that prayer is by no means intended to pre- 
vail upon the Divine Being by inlportunity 
to do what he would not otherwise be dis^ 
poMed to perform. It is, however, natural, 
and lawful, and expedient, for the dutiful 
chiid to make known its wants, its sorrows, 
and itB fears, to a wise and tehder parent : 

1 60 Plan of Providence 

and what are we, what are the wisest of man- 
kind, but ignorant and helpless children in 
the presence of God ? to whom, therefore, 
it is our wisdom and our duty to have re- 
course in every time of need, to express the 
earnest -desires of our hearts, after blessings 
temporal and spiritual, accompanied with 
unreserved submission to the divine will. 
We are allowed to ask for daily bread, for 
virtue, and for peace. And the devout ex- 
pression of earnest desire will prove an 
additional motive to virtuous exertion, and so 
become,eventually and indirectly, the means 
of attaining the blessing sought. After all, it 
must be acknowledged that, strictly and 
philosophically speaking, prayer is and can 
be of no effect in the way that is vulgarly 
expected. But we are none of us philoso- 
phers in common life, and we cannot but 
act according to the natural impression of 
physical circumstances ; and if truly pious» 
we shall naturally have recourse, in the 
exigencies of life, to an omnipresent andalU 
merciful Parent, and shall derive support 
and comfort from praying to him, and coo- 

conducted by general Laws. 161 

fiding in him. Away, then, with the cold 
and heartless philosophy Which would 
deprive us of the greatest comfort and 
support of life; which, if it does not ab- 
solutely deny the existence of God, ne- 
vertheless places him at such a distance 
from us, as is almost tantamount to the 
denial of his being. 

Nevertheless, I must acknowledge that, 
as he who is best informed of the course of 
nature, is least disposed to give credit to 
tales of supernatural events, so it appears 
to me, that they who entertain the most 
correct views of the divine character, and 
who possess most of the spirit of rational 
and fervent piety, will be most disposed, in 
their addresses to the Supreme Being, to 
adopt the language of gratitude, of confi- 
dence, of joy, and of resignation, rather 
than. that of importunate petition. We 
have been taught by the highest authority 
to pray, and a better prayer cannot be ad- 
dressed by human ignorance and frailty to 
infinite wisdom and benevolence, Thy will 
be dcme on earth, as it is done in heaven. 


1 62 Plan^ of Providence 

Upon the whole, the difference between 
the scheme that God governs the world by 
general laws, without any occasional inter- 
position to control and modify their effects, 
and that which admits of occasional sus- 
pensions and changes in the order of nature 
and the course of things, is not of conside- 
rable moment. All serious and thinking 
persons, all who acknowledge the divine 
perfections must, if they are consistent with 
themselves, agree in this grand general 
principle, that all things are of God, and 
that all events come to pass in perfect har- 
mony with his wise and benevolent design. 
Omniscience can never be surprised : Om- 
nipotence can never be defeated : and In- 
finite Goodness can never be exhausted. 
And it is plain, either that God foresaw 
that his wise and benevolent plan would be 
ultimately accomplished, by the unimpeded 
operation of the general laws which he ori- 
ginally instituted, and therefore permitted 
them to take their course, or foreseeing that 
they would produce effects interfering with 
his wise design, he determined upon such 

conducted hy general Laws. 163 

occasions, and upon such alone, to interpose 
to regulate the grand machine, and to ad- 
just its movements to the accomplishment 
of the benevolent purposes for which it was 
constructed. Of these methods, one appears 
more simple, more grand, and more worthy 
of Infinite Intelligence than the other ; but 
the end is the same in both. All things 
are of God, and all eventually for good : 
for the greatest good which infinite wisdom 
could devise, and which infinite power 
could execute. 

Having thus established the great doc- 
trine of divine providence, with respect to 
those events which are brought to pass by 
the operation of mechanical laws, and like- 
wise its unlimited extent over the thoughts^ 
tlie purposes, and the actions of intelligent 
and voluntary agents, and events which are 
dependent upon them, and having shewn 
that they are all comprehended in the di- 
vine plan, and that all are made subservient 
to the divine purpose, I shall conclude- with 
one reflection. 

What an exalted idea does the doctrine of 
M 2 

1 64 Plan of Providence 

the dioine providence excite of the Supreme 
Being ! 

Wise and sagacious men, by long expe- 
rience and attentive observation, are able 
to form a tolerably correct judgment con- 
cerning the conduct of those with vrhom 
they are connected in the various circum- 
stances and conditions of life. They fonH 
their plans correspondently with thi^ ex* 
pectations, and by the diligent study c^ 
human nature, they can occasionally direct 
the views, and purposes, and actions of 
others, so as to induce them, without being 
aware of the influence by which they are 
led, to promote the good or evil designs of 
their conductors. By these means they 
frequently succeed in their projects to an 
astonishing degree. But what is the keenest 
penetration of human sagacity, compared 
with that perfect comprehension which 
God possesses of all his creatures, with. all 
their actions, their purposes, their motiv^ 
and every thought of the heart, and of all 
the events which depend upon them,. and 
are connected with them, to the reaiotest 

conducted . by general Laws. 1 65 

period of duration. The all-knowing, all- 
pervading Sovereign of universal nature, 
includes all in the plan of his wise and be- 
nevolent government, and with unerring 
precision arranges every particular of the 
unbounded whole, so that not an atom or 
a thought shall stray from its appointed 
place, and that no ignorance or caprice on 
the gart of his creatures shall ever produce 
Any unforeseen event, or give rise to any 
unexpected contingence: no perverseness 
of will, no malignity of purpose, shall in- 
terrupt the harmony of the divine govern- 
ment; and all the rational creatures of God, 
/whatever their individual thoughts and de- 
signs may be, and whether they desire it or 
not, whether they intend it, or otherwise, 
shall in their respective spheres co-operate 
.with God, and shall be made subservient 
to the plan of divine benevolence; and 
this, at times, even in direct opposition to 
their perverse wills and evil inclinations. 

It is also reasonable to believe, that this 
complex and magnificent plan is gradually 
unfolded and displayed, and in its succes- 

166 Flan of Providence 

sive periods is brought to pass in conformity 
to the general laws which Infinite Wisdom 
has ordained for the government of the uni- 
verse, without any necessity for occasional 
interpositions to suspend the laws of the 
human mind, or to control the freedom of 
voluntary agents. 

How astonishing and exalted an idea 
does this consideration excite of tt^ un- 
searchable perfection of God. How com- 
prehensive must be that intellect which 
could form and digest a plan of such bound- 
less magnitude ! and which could, with 
such perfect accuracy, arrange and harmo- 
nize the innumerable parts of the infinite 
and stupendous whole! How wonderful 
that power by which it is carried into effect ! 
and every portion of it developed in its 
proper time and place ! How inconceiv- 
able that benevolence which prompted a 
scheme, the sole object and design of which 
is to produce virtue and happiness, unlimi- 
ted and everlasting, without measure and 
without end ; the greatest possible sum of 
rectitude and happiness which infinite wis- 

conducted by general Laws. 167 

dom could devise, and infinite power could 
execute ! How wonderful that knowledge 
which saw that evil, in a certain form, and 
to a certain extent, was not only admissible, 
but inevitable, in a system upon the whole 
the wisest and best ! And how exquisite 
that wisdom which, without approving it as 
intrinsically good, or choosing it for its own 
sake^permitted it to prevail so far as might 
be expedient in the general system ; so far 
as it might be made compatible with the 
great object of the divine government; so 
far as it might be over-ruled to the produc- 
tion of good ; or so far as it might be un- 
avoidable in a system which was upon the 
whole the wisest and best, without suffering 
it in the least degree to exceed its necessary 
limits ; and with the great, and glorious, 
and irrevocable purpose, that when the 
grand and magnificent plan of government 
is complete, and the divine dispensations 
shall have been conducted to their proper 
termination, all evil, natural and moral, 
shall be for ever exterminated from the 
works of God. 

168 Plan of Providence 

How transcendent must be that happiness 
which results from iDfinite benevolence, 
under the direction of infinite wisdom, ful- 
filling in their appointed season, by the 
energy of infinite power, all its glorious 
purposes, contemplating with inconceivable 
delight the good which has already been 
accomplished, and regarding as present the 
whole of that immensity of bliss ^hich 
eternity will ripen and evolve, and which 
is even now actually existent in the views 
of the Infinite Being, to whom things that 
are not, are as though they were, and of 
whom alone it can with propriety be pre- 
dicated, that he inhabiteth eternity. How 
are all the powers of reason and imagina- 
tion absorbed and lost in the stupendous 
abyss of divine providence ! 

The apostle Paul, penetrated with these 
astonishing contemplations of the character 
and government of the great Ruler of the 
universe, unable to contain his rapturous 
feelings, bursts out in the language of joy- 
ful admiration, " O the depth of the riches 
of the wisdom and the knowledge of God ! 

conducted by general Laws. 169 

how unsearchable are his judgments, and 
his ways past finding out ! For who has 
known the mind of the Lord, or who hath 
been his counsellor? For of him, and 
through him, and to him are all things : to 
whom be glory for ever." 

To this sublime doxology may all the 
rational creatures of God, under a deep 
impression of the excellences of the divine 
character, and of the wisdom, the equity, 
and the benignity of the divine govern- 
ment, add their grateful and joyful Amen, 
and their everlasting Hallelujahs! 



Rom. ix. 14. 

What shall we sat/^ then ? Is there unrighteousnas VDith 
God^ God forbid. 

If there be a doctrine which, beyond all 
others, is favourable to virtue, and replete 
with consolation, which is like oil to the 
troubled waves, or as balm to the burning 
wound — if there be a doctrine which be- 
yond all others reconciles a man to himself) 
to his condition, to his fellow-creatures, 
and to his God — which makes him satisfied 
with all that happens — which administers 
peace in tribulation — which dispels all fear, 
and removes solicitude from the breast — 
which forcibly tends to extinguish all bad 
passions in the heart, and to substitute pa- 
tience, forbearance, meekness, and forgive- 
ness, in the room of hatred, malevolence. 

Objections stated and answered. 171 

and revenge — which inspires fortitude and 
resolution to persevere in virtuous and be- 
nevolent exertion amidst multiplied disap- 
pointments, increasing difficulties, and in 
defiance of insensibility, ingratitude, re- 
proach, and calumny — if there be a doc- 
trine which, beyond all others, infuses into 
the soul that joy and peace which no ex- 
ternal occurrence can disturb — a doctrine 
which, if it were universally believed, felt, 
and acted upon, would convert this jarring 
and tempestuous world into a paradise of 
love, and concord, and happiness — it is the 
doctrine of the all-ruling, all-comprehend* 
ing providence of God — it is the doctrine, 
that in this great universe there is but ON£ 
GOVERNING WILL, and that all inferior and 
subordinate wills are made subservient to 
the designs of the great Supreme — it is the 
doctrine that all contingency is excluded 
from the works of God, and that nothing 
comes to pass in the created universe but 
what was foreseen, permitted, and pro- 
vided for, and one may even say ordained 
in the counsels of God, as the wisest and 

1 72 Objectmis stated and answered. 

the best, and, all things considered, the 
most expedient and eligible in a system 
which was selected as exhibiting the most 
illustrious display of the divine perfections. 
It is the grand and the sublime doctrine, 
that evil, as well as good, proceeds imme- 
diately from God ; not chosen by him for 
its own sake ; not in any sense approved 
by him, but permitted by his wisdom, li- 
mited by his power, and over-ruled by his 
providence for the production of good — of 
good far greater than could have existed, 
unconnected with the antecedent evil. 

This doctrine of the all-comprehending, 
the all-governing providence of God — this 
doctrine, the very thought of which is suf- 
ficient to inspire the heart with rapture, 
and the tongue with praise — this sublime 
doctrine, so clearly, so directly demon- 
strable from the principles of reason, so 
explicitly, so forcibly, so repeatedly an- 
nounced, and insisted upon in the Scrip- 
tures, both of the Old Testament and the 
New — ^this grand and delightful doctrine 
is, strange to think, an object of general 

Objections stated and answered. 173 

prejudice, distaste, and even alarm; and 
that, not so much to the vulgar and illite- 
rate, to the ignorant and unthinking, as to 
the intelligent and well-educated, to those 
who, in other respects, and upon other sub- 
jects, discover strength of intellect, acute- 
ness of discrimination, solidity of judg- 
ment, and comprehension of mind. This 
doctrine is, somehow or other, offensive to 
the virtuous and the good, to those who, 
from their integrity of heart, their inno- 
cence and purity of life, their piety to 
God, and their benevolence to man, are 
entitled to all the animating hopes, and 
to all the rich consolations which are the 
natural and necessary result of this glo- 
rious truth, well understood, cordially re- 
ceived, and habitually cherished. Not a 
few of this description, by a singular ex- 
ception from their general character, influ- 
enced in this case alone by some extraor- 
dinary misconception, by groundless pre- 
possession, and by false alarm, strangely 
close their eyes against the light, resist the 
most palpable evidence, and with unad- 

174 Objections stated and answered. 

vised precipitation they push from their 
lips that precious balm which divine mercy 
oflFers to, yea, presses upon their accept- 
ance. They obstruct their own improve- 
ment in knowledge and virtue. They are 
enemies to their own happiness, and they 
disparage and reject a doctrine, the belief 
of which, if not essential to their salvation, 
which God forbid ! is, I will be bold to say, 
essential to their peace. I will be bold to 
say, that till this glorious and sublime truth 
is well understood, and practically felt, 
they never will, or can enjoy all that con- 
solation and delight to which their virtue 
is entitled ; they never will or can expe- 
rience that peace of God which passetb all 
undei*standing. They never will nor can 
possess that entire conformity to his moral 
image, that dutiful and unreserved submis- 
sion to his will, that holy joy and triumph 
in his government, which is the truest and 
sublimest happiness of a reasonable crea^ 
ture. I will, without hesitation, aver my 
conviction, that if this glorious truth be 
not distinctly apprehended and acknow- 

Objections stated and answered. 175 

ledged in this region of twilight and of 
shadow, the perception of it will be the 
first acquisition in that better state where 
darkness will be exchanged for light, and 
ignorance for knowledge ; and of the hap- 
piness of which the contemplation of this 
sublime and glorious truth in all its inte- 
resting and boundless ramifications, con- 
nexions, and consequences, will constitute 
a refined and copious sour.ce. For, if this 
doctrine of an all-ruling, all-comprehend- 
ing providence be not true, the universe is 
without a God, the world is without a pa- 
rent, and all this fair, and beautiful, and 
harmonious system, may terminate in con- 
fusion, misery, and despair. 

Would to God, says the eloquent 
apostle to the half-converted Hebrew 
prince, would to Grod that not only thou, 
but that all who hear me this day, were 
not only almost, but altogether such as I 
ami Nor can I, my Christian hearers, 
under the vivid impression of the vast im- 
portance of this sublime truth, forbear to 
breathe the same ardent aspiration, would 

176 Objections stated and answered. 

to God that all who hear me this day were 
equally convinced with myself of the cer- 
tainty, and of the supreme importance of 
the all-ruling, all-comprehending provi- 
dence of God, and that they enjoyed the 
delightful experience of the blessed and 
salutary effect of this glorious doctrine I 

But I well know that truths, the most 
demonstrable and the most vital, can only 
make their way by slow degrees, and that 
prepossessions and prejudices, not seldom 
most powerful and inveterate when least 
perceived, often interpose insurmountable 
obstacles ; that they fascinate the imagina- 
tion, mislead the judgment, and render the 
understanding inaccessible to the clearest 
evidence. Prejudice is the worst enemy 
with which truth has to encounter; and 
though the ultimate triumph of truth is se- 
cure, this complete victory is not the work 
of a day ; and there is no post where pre- 
judice takes a firmer stand, or is more ge- 
nerally supported, than in her resistance to 
the doctrine of the all-comprehending pro- 
vidence of God, to the doctrine which 

Objections stated and answered. 177 

teaches that evil as well as good is of di- 
vine appointment, and will be over-ruled 
for the best purposes. Upon this strong 
hold, where the enemy is so deeply en- 
trenched^ would I this day, as one enlisted 
under the banner of truth, confident in the 
cause, how justly soever diffident of the 
abilities of the advocate, form an attack, 
and with the powerful artillery of reason 
would I endeavour to open a passage for 
her victorious standard. In other words, 
and dropping the language of metaphor, I 
propose to state, and to the best of my 
ability to solve and to obviate the most 
plausible and popular objections against 
the sublime and delightful doctrine of the 
all-comprehending providence of God. 

This glorious doctrine has been con- 
founded with fatalism, — and with arbitrary 
predestination. It is said to be inconsistent 
with the freedom of the human mil — ^and 
with the wisdom and justice oi' reward and 
punishment: — that it has a tendency to 
harden wicked men in the commusion of 


178 Objections stated and answered. 

crimes — and to induce universal indolence 
and inactivity. 

L The universal all-comprehending pro* 
vidence of God is often confounded- with 
blind, inexorable /afa/rsm. 

Fatalism supposes the existence of blind, 
arbitrary, unrelenting force, which, with-, 
out motive, and without design, good or 
bad, brings every thing to pass by irre- 
sistible necessity, over which human power 
has no control; and to remedy or miti- 
gate the evils of which human wisdom can 
discover no expedient. This doctrine, so 
contrary to all reason and experience, 
would, if true, be indeed a most un^ 
comfortable and heart-withering system; 
but this is not the true, the philosophic, 
and the Christian doctrine of an aU«go- 
verning Providence. Indeed, upon this 
latter system, as well as upon the former, 
every event takes place at the appointed 
time, in exact correspondence with the di- 
vine plan and purpose; not a thought n 
out of place, not a hair of the head is un- 

ObfediMs Mtated and answered. 179 

noticed; not a sparrow lights upon the 
ground without permission. But the plan 
thus formed, and in all its ramifications 
completely carried into eflFect, is the plan of 
infinite wisdom, prompted by infinite be- 
nevolence, always selecting, always exe- 
cuting what is absolutely and invariably 
the wisest and the best ; so that there is al- 
ways the best possible reason for whatever 
comes to pass ; and if the question is asked, 
Why does this event happen ? Why does 
that evil occur? Why does not such a 
beautiful scheme prosper? The answer is 
always ready, not, that these events hap- 
pened in the necessary course of nature, 
and by the over-ruling power of irresistible 
fate, but that, in all their connexions, cir- 
cumstances, and consequences, they ap- 
peared to the all-comprehending mind of 
God to be the best which could happen 
at that time, and in those circumstances; 
and which, all things considered, would 
be most conducive to the general good. 
The difference between these two systems 
is no less than infinite. The one is the 
N 2 

180 Okjections stated and amwtrid. 

parent of peace, and hope, and joyful ex- 
pectation. The other is pregnant with mi- 
sery and despair. 

II. The doctrine of the all-comprehend- 
ing providence of God is often confounded 
with the gloomy notion of absolute predes-^ 
tination, and arbitrary decrees. 

It is with some a favourite notion that 
God acts from mere good pleasure, from 
absolute sovereignty, without any motive 
of wisdom or benevolence to influence his 
choice, without any reason for choosing 
one thing rather than its opposite; and 
that all he does or ordains is right, solely 
because he chooses it. It is their favourite 
doctrine, that Grod having, by his sovereign 
pleasure ordained, that all the myriads of 
mankind should become liable to eternal 
misery for Adam's sin, of which it was 
quite impossible that they should be per- 
sonally guilty, he has, from mere good 
pleasure, and as an act of absolute sove- 
reignty, without any reason for preference, 
elected some, a happy few, out of this im- 
mense mass, to everlasting life : and these 

Objections stated and answered. 181 

in due time he effectually calls, and justi- 
fies, and sancti6es, and glorifies; leaving 
or dooming the hapless residue, the im- 
mense majority, though equally the crea- 
tures of his power, equally helpless, and 
equally blameless, to all the miseries of this 
life, to death itself, and to the pains of 
HELL FOR EVER. This, according to some, is 
the doctrine of Free Grace ; it is one of the 
glorious peculiarities of the gospel ; this it 
is that lays the creature low, that precludes 
all human merit, and that magnifies the 
absolute sovereignty, and the electing love 
of God. But surely, if this be a doctrine 
of the gospel, it must be the gospel of 
Satan himself; for I am sure that no such 
absurd, blasphemous, and horrible doc- 
trine as this is contained in the gospel 
of the meek and holy Jesus, that glorious 
gospel of the grace of God, which pro- 
claims peace on earth, and good-will to 
men. This odious doctrine of arbitrary 
decrees is so repugnant to every principle 
of reason, justice, and benevolence, and so 
inconsistent with every amiable, every ve- 

183 Olffections stated and ansv^ered, 

nerable attribute of God, and with every 
conception which reason and ravelatioo 
teach us to form of the divine government, 
that to its unhappy advocates it is a conti* 
nual source of anxiety and alarnoi ; and in 
many who oppose it, the very thought of 
this doctrine excites such bitter sensations 
of disgust, that, in order to avoid it, they 
rush into the contrary extreme, and reject, 
without inquiry, the glorious doctrine of 
the alUcomprehending, all-governing pro- 
vidence of God. Wishing to recede as fiur 
as possible from a hideous and dangerous 
error, they have unwarily abandoneii the 
glorious attribute of divine foreknowledge* 
or they have closed their eyes against the 
natural and necessary consequenoes of tjiiis 
important doctrine, and have run into con^ 
tradiction, to avoid what they sii(]ftOied to 
be blasphemy. But, surely, the proper way 
of repelling error is not by hurrying iqIo 
the contrary extreme ; is not by denying 
or invalidating the divine attributeg, and 
thereby giving an improper advantage lo 
the adversaries of truth ; but by coneeding 

Objections stated and answered. 183 

that which cannot he denied, viz. that 
every thing which happens constitutes a 
portion of a grand and comprehensive plan, 
which plan is the result of the eternal coun- 
cils of infinite wisdom and benevolence, and 
includes, not Uie reprobation and eternal 
misery of the majority, but the ultimate vir* 
tue and everlasting felicity of the whole. 

IIL The doctrine of the universal and 
all^comprehending providence of God is 
thought by some to be inconsistent with 


But what is this liberty, of which we are 
so jealous? Is it the liberty of acting in 
contradiction to the divine foreknowledge? 
Even a child must see the absurdity of such 
a supposition as this. Such a liberty is 
manifestly impossible and inconceivable. 
If any one possessed and exercised such a 
liberty as this» he must be treated as a 
lunatio-^^or to act without motive, or in 
opposition to all motive, is the definition 
of lunacy ; and the unhappy agent must 
he put upder restraint, that he may not do 
miacbief to himself and others. The only 

1 84 Objections stated and answered. 

liberty worthy of a rational being— the 
only consistent and intelligible liberty, is 
the liberty of human actions — it is the li- 
berty of doing or forbearing, as we pleasie 
— it is the liberty of being prudent, indus- 
trious, temperate, chaste, upright, benevo- 
lent, and pious, without any foreign impe- 
diment or control, if virtue be the object 
of our choice — and the liberty or power 
of being dishonest, intemperate, licentious, 
avaricious, unfeeling, and cruel, if we 
please, and if we choose, the character and 
the consequences of vice. This is the only 
liberty which we possess or understand; 
and, in fact, the only liberty that is essen- 
tial to moral agency, and to moral respon- 
sibility. This liberty is inherent io our 
nature ; it is in continual exercise, and is 
the sole foundation of approbation and dis* 
approbation, of praise and blame ; aridthis 
liberty is perfectly consistent with, yea, it 
is the natural result of the all-seeing, all-> 
governing providence of God, whose bene- 
volent purposes for the good of his crea^ 
tures could not be carried into effect if they 

Objections stated and answered. 185 

were not made practically free and com- 
petent, without compulsion, or any exter- 
nal restraint, to choose good or evil, virtue 
or vice. 

IV. The great doctrine of the universal 
all-comprehending providence of God, is 
thought by some to be inconsistent mth the 
scripture doctrine of reward and punishment. 

And I should, indeed, be of the same 
opinion, and should concede the objection 
in its full force, if the modern self-called 
evangelical doctrine were true. If the 
heart of man were naturally depraved, 
tainted with sin to the very core ; if, in this 
state, men were not only unable to help 
themselves, but even to will and to pray 
for assistance, denied the aid they need, 
but cannot ask, and denied it for the very 
reason that they do not ask for it; and 
finally plunged into eternal misery be- 
cause they are, and continue to be, and 
cannot help being, what their Creator made 
them ; who placed them, of his own will, 
without any consent of theirs, in the cir- 
cumstances in which they are, foreseeing, 

186 Objections stated and answa-td. 

and intending, or in other words ordaining 
the inevitable results. If this sad doctrine 
be true, and if it is thus that God deals 
with his helpless and miserable creatures, no 
terms of censure would be sufficiently harsh 
to express our abhorrence of this flagrant 
injustice, this odious tyranny. But if this 
be not to ascribe unrighteousness to Grod^ it 
is hard to say what would be so, jf this be 
not to impeach the Regent of the universe 
as an omnipotent tyrant, words are without 
a meaning, and there never was any such 
thing as tyranny in the world. 

Moreover, if we conceive, as we are apt 
to do, though in words we disavow it, that 
the Supreme Being is subject to bunotan 
passions, that he feels anger and indigna* 
tion, and that he punishes the guilty from 
motives of resentment and revengo, w« f&ll 
into a grievous error. No truly ! Fury is 
not in him. And whoever may misGOO^ 
ceive and misrepresent, or whoever m^y 
dis^prove and dislike the doctrine, I mustp 
to th^ best of my ability, defend the cUvine 
dispensations, justify the divine cbaracitor, 

Objections stated and answered. 187 

and vindicate the wags of God to man. I 
must assert the paternal government of 
Godf and his equal and impartial goodness 
to all his creatures. 

It is a truth of primary importance in 
morals, it is a truth which revelation alone 
can teach, and which Christianity has ex- 
pressly revealed, so as to leave not a sha-* 
dow of doubt upon the subject, that the 
wicked shall rise to condemnation; that 
indignation and wrath, tribulation and an- 
guish, unutterable and insupportable, tfwait 
the unrighteous and impenitent in a life to 
come ; and this doctrine, so solemnly and 
explicitly taught in the scripture, is con-* 
firmed by every appearance of nature, and 
by every phenomenon of mind. And woe, 
woe unutterable, will be the portion of 
those who persevere in the practice of vice, 
under the fond, presumptuous expectation, 
of escaping from misery. 

But it is in truth equally evident, both 
from the deductions of reason and from the 
discoveries of revelation, that the wicked^ 
nesi of the wicked is mcluded in the gene^ 

1 88 Ohjectiims stated and answered. 

. ral plan of divine providence : that the ty- 
rant of Egypt, and that the murderers of 
Jesus, did no more than what God had fore- 
known, and appointed in the councils of 
his eternal wisdom. It is also certain that 
these very individuals would, if they had 
been placed in different circumstances, have 
been virtuous and happy ; that Tyre and 
Sidon, that even Sodom and Gomorrha 
would have been penitent and virtuous, had 
they been favoured with the privileges of 
Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. And 
further, it must be allowed, that all this 
wickedness is permitted and over-ruled^ for 
the accomplishment of the divine purposeSf 
and for the general good. 

How then are these two doctrines to be 
reconciled to each other, to the wisdom and 
goodness of the divine character, and to 
the propriety and justice of the promises 
and threatenings of the Holy Scriptures. 
How can it be that vice should be foreseen, 
and upon that foresight admitted into the 
divine plan, and overruled for a greater 
good than could have existed without it, 

Objections stated and answered. 189 

and yet, that the vicious^ who are thus, un- 
intentionally indeed, but really, and neces- 
sarily subservient to, and the actual means 
of accomplishing the divine plan, and pro- 
ducing the greatest possible good, should 
not only be excluded from participating in 
the good produced, but be consigned to 
severe punishment and insupportable mi- 
sery ? 

This difficulty, this great difficulty, which 
has perplexed the wise and good in all ages, 
is not to be disposed of surely by maintain- 
ing, either that God ordains vice, and there- 
fore, that he will not punish it; or, that 
God will certainly punish vice, and there- 
fore, that he did not intend its existence. 
Neither of these solutions will yield satis- 
faction to the serious and thoughtful mind. 

It is in vain to shut our eyes against the 
light. The fact is, that God foresaw, and 
foreseeing did permit, and even ordain the 
existence of vice for the sake of the greater 
good which was to be extracted from it ; 
and that, nevertheless, it is his express de- 
termination to punish the wicked with due 

190 Obfeotions $taUd and anmered. 

severity. The question is^ upon what 
ground can punishment be due ? 

I cannot feel happy under the divine go- 
vernment unless I am assured that this go* 
vernment is just^ benevolent, and wise. If 
any fact occurs which appears to militate 
against this conclusion^ I cannot be satisfied 
with being told it is a mystery, I am soli- 
citous, if possible, to reconcile unfavour- 
able appearances to governing rectitude; 
and in the present case I am persuaded 
that there is no difficulty which does not 
admit of an easy and satisfactory solution. 

In fact, no difficulty offers itself^ but that 
which arises from imputing to the omnisct* 
ent and immutable God, the infirmities and 
passions of frail and fallible men. When 
the Scriptures say that God is angry with 
the wicked, and that he will punish vice, 
we immediately attribute to him the irrita- 
ble feelings of human beings ; we conceive 
that he is operated upon by anger, indig' 
nation, and revenge; and that he is prompt- 
ed to action by a desire to gratify his r^ 
•entment, not by good will to the sufferer, 

Obftctums stated and answered. 191 

and a desire to promote his benefit and re- 

But I must again beg leave to renew, 
and to press the consideration, that the go« 
Tcmment of God is a paternal government, 
and that the wicked, equally with the vir- 
tuous, are the work of his hands, the pen- 
sioners on his bounty, and the objects of 
his care and providence. The punishments, 
therefore, which God inflicts are the chas- 
tisement of a father, not the vindictive 
strokes of an enemy. If a child offend, how 
does the wise parent act? Does he instantly 
fly into a passion and punish without mer- 
cy, and without measure ? If wisdom and 
kindness dwell in his heart he pities the ig- 
norance, the thoughtlessness^ and the bad 
passions of the child, and administers cor- 
rection in order to reclaim. If the fault is 
renewed, the correction is repeated, and if 
needful it is continued with increased seve- 
rity, though often doubtless with an aching 
heart, till the design is accomplished and 
the sufferer reclaimed. Who does not see 
how much more rational, more dignified, 

192 Objections stated and answered. 

and more effectual, correctioa thus admi- 
nistered must be, than the same discipline 
when it originates in resentment and ma- 
lice? Seldom does punishment, flowing 
from such a polluted source, even though it 
be not excessive, produce any considerable 
or permanent benefit. But where it deters 
from crime, it fails to generate that rever- 
ence, and affectionate regard to the repro- 
ver, which is one of the most ingenuous 
feehngs of the youthful breast, and one of 
the best motives, and most effectual safe- 
guards to virtue. 

In strict justice the character of God 
would stand completely vindicated, if the 
wicked, permitted to exist for a time, in or- 
der to answer the purposes of the divine 
government, should, after a limited period, 
in which misery should not upon the whole 
preponderate, be blotted out of existence ; 
for who has any claim upon his maker for 
more than this, that his being should not 
be made a curse, since existence was not 
the object of his choice. And this is, per- 
haps, all that the light of nature could of 

Objections stated and answered. 193 

itself discover ; the only conclusion to 
which unassisted reason could lead, even 
with the correctest views of the divine cha- 

But revelation teaches otherwise, and 
opens to view a stupendous scene of judg- 
ment and of mercy which, in the councils 
of divine wisdom, is reserved for the un- 
righteous. Revelation teaches what reason 
could never have discovered, that the wick- 
ed will rise again. It teaches further, what 
reason must allow, dnd what is indeed the 
obvious and necessary consequence of the 
foregoing fact, that the wicked when raised 
must be raised to suffering, or in other 
words to punishment in exact proportion 
to their character and crime ; and this pu- 
nishment is described as fearful and insup- 
portable ; as indefinite both in extent and 

But revelation does more. It gives birth 
to the reflection, that man, how vicious so- 
ever, cannot reasonably be supposed to be 
roused from the insensibility of thousands 
of years, for no other purpose than to suffer 

YOU II. o 

194 Ohjeeiicns aated and answered. 

an insupportable load of anguish and mi- 
sery, and then to be again reduced to in- 
sensibility and nothing. Such a proceeding 
as this would indeed be utterly unworthy 
of God, and inconsistent with every correct 
idea of justice and benevolence. This con- 
sideration alone would form a ground of 
hope that the sufferings of the wicked would 
be a remedial process. 

But revelation teaches further still. It 
describes the future sufferings of the wick- 
ed by the word correction,^ a word which 
properly expresses suffering inflicted for 
the benefit of the offender. It teaches that 
the anger of God is but for a moment, but 
that his mercy endureth for ever. It an- 
nounces the destruction even of the second 
death ; and, finally, it distinctly declares, 
that as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall 
all be made alive ; and be it observed^ that 
the resurrection of which the apostle speaks 
is represented as a glorious privilege to all 
the participants of it, that is, to all mankind. 

• N. B.— KoXcuric* See Malt. xxf. 46* 

Obftetums stated and aniwered. 195 

Not indeed to all at once. No» that would 
be as inconsistent with the divine wisdom 
as it is with the divine word. But to every 
one in his own order, when it shall appear 
that he is properly qualified by a previous 
discipline for admission to the society of 
just men made perfect, to the presence of 
God, the judge of all, and of Jesus, the me- 
diator of the new covenant. Thus shall all 
things be subdued unto Christ, who shall 
then, when all his enemies are put under 
his feet, resign the kingdom to God, even 
the Father, and God shall be all in all. All 
will be perfectly and for ever virtuous, and 
perfectly and for ever happy. 

This is the glotious termination of the 
divine dispensations to mankind. And 
thus it is, that the foreknowledge and all- 
ruling providence of God is fully justified 
inf the future sufferings of the wicked and 
imfmnitent. All are brought to ultimate 
amd infinite, and therefore to equal happi- 
ness, by different processes, and at different 
p^riiMs ; and all the reasonable creatures of 
God will have teason to rejoice in their ex- 


196 Obfectums stated and answered. 

istence, and ultimately to unite in one grand 
universal chorus of everlasting hallelujah, 
salvation, blessing, and praise. 

V. It is further urged, that the doctrine 
of the universal, all-comprehending provi- 
dence of God, has a tendency to make men 
east/ in the commission of crimes. 

But this is impossible. For the very de- 
finition of vice is, a course of conduct which 
leads to ultimate misery. It is the disor- 
ganization of the intellectual and moral 
powers. A man can no more be happy in 
the practice of vice, than he can be at ease 
under the dislocation of a limb, or with a 
broken bone. And who is the man who 
would presume to plead, that if God has 
predestinated me to be a sinner, I cannot 
help it, and therefore I will go on till he 
forces me back ? Who, I say, will presume 
to argue thus, but the man who having 
sold himself to iniquity is determined to 
persevere in crime ? Such persons will al- 
ways find pretences to harden themselves 
in wickedness, whether they believe or not 
in the foreknowledge of God. It is in vain 

Objections stated and answered. 197 

now to object to the publication of the doc- 
trine because it may be, and has ever been, 
abused by bad men, to palliate their crimes. 
The doctrine is no secret, nor can it be kept 
, as such ; and if bad men make a bad use 
of it, to harden themselves in guilt, let good 
men learn to make good use of it, to en- 
courage themselves in virtue. Surely, good 
men ought not to be deprived of the conso- 
lation which truth affords, because wicked 
men may pervert it to their own destruc- 
tion. What truth is not liable to abuse ? 
Who will deny that to the most aggravated 
offences mercy will be extended where re- 
pentance is sincere ? But is not this doc- 
trine every day perverted to encourage 
men to persevere in vice, who constantly 
sin with the intention to repent. But are 
we therefore to refrain from preaching the 
necessity and availableness of repentance ? 
A diseased stomach converts the most 
wholesome nutriment into poison. And 
we are taught by the apostle not to conceal 
important truth, but to declare the whole 

198 Objections stated and answered, 

counsel of God, which, though it be to some 
an odour of death- unto death, will, to those 
whose hearts are rightly disposed, be an 
odour of life unto life. 

VI. It is alleged that the doctrine of 
the all-comprehending providence of God, 
if generally received, would reduce man- 
kind to a state of general torpor and inoo 

But in reply to this objection we may 

1. That whatever be the consequence, 
truth remains the same. And surely it may 
be admitted as a just principle in moral 
science, that from what is true, no conse- 
quence can follow but what is good. 

2. If the end is foreseen and determined, 
the means are equally foreseen, and equally 
determined. If life is to be prolonged to 
fourscore years, the means by which it is 
to be so prolonged are necessary iioks in 
the chain of providence. 

3. It is not true in fact that they who 
believe in the all-comprehending plao of 

Obfcctiofis Uated and answered. 199 

divine provideDce, and in the doctrines of 
oecessity and predestination, are more in- 
dolent than others. 

And, Lastly, The thing itself is impos- 
sible. A determination to sit still, and to 
do nothing, would be like a determination 
to slop the breath : it might succeed to a 
certain extent, and for a limited time, after 
which the stimulus would become too strong 
to be resisted. In like manner, whatever 
inchnation, whatever inducement men 
might have to be indolent, happily for them 
they are generally placed in circumstances 
which render exertion necessary, and the 
influence of these circumstances is too pow- 
erful to be resisted. So that very little 
danger of this kind would be likely to ac- 
crue from the prevalence even of the grossest 
system of fatalism. Such is the wise pro- 
vision of Divine Providence to prevent 
practical injury from the greatest specula- 
tive errors. 

To conclude, I trust that the considera- 
tions which have been offered will, upon 
due attention, be found sufficient to obviate 

200 Objections stated and answered. 

the objections, and to soften the prejudices 
of many well-disposed persons against a 
doctrine demonstrably true, the general 
acceptance, and practical application of 
which would be eminently conducive to 
the virtue and happiness of mankind. 




Job, xii. 23. 

He increaseth the nationsy and destroy eth them: He 
enlargeth the nationsy and straiteneth them again. 

The providence of God extends to all 
events which are brought to pass by what 
are called the laws of nature, which are in 
fact no other than his appointment and 
energy. " He formeth light, and createth 
darkness ; he maketh peace, and createth 

It is no less true, though the truth be 
neither so immediately apparent, nor so 
universally acknowledged, that events 
which are accomplished by the intervention 
of intelligent and voluntary agents, also ori- 
ginate with God, and are justly traced up 
to him, as their proper and primary cause. 

202 The Providaice of God 

All his creatures are instruments in his 
hands to perform his pleasure, and to fulfil, 
in their respective spheres, the purposes of 
his wisdom and his benevolence. 

Hence follows the obvious and important 
consequence, to which I desire at this time 
more particularly to direct your attention, 
namely, that the divine providence extends 
to men, considered in a social state, and 
that God is, in a true and proper sense, the 
primary Author of the good and evil which 
happens to individuals io their social rela- 
tions, and to conwiunities in their public 
capacity. The proof of this is so evident 
that it requires but little enlargemenL 

The voluntary actions of individuals are 
ujQder the cognizance and control of Divio^ 
Providence. Not a thought rises in the 
breast which escapes the notice of Omni- 
science. Not a purpose i$. formed in the 
mind whieh had not previously found it3 
pilaee in the immutable councils of Heaven. 
Not an action is performed which doth^not 
in its place, and in ail its complex con- 
nexions and remote consequences,, ulti- 

(werruUng the SacuU State of Man. 203 

mately subserve the plan of Infinite Bene- 
volence. But the wills, the tempers, and 
the actions of societies, are the wills, the 
tempers, and the actions of the individuals 
who compose them; and, consequently, 
communities of every description, whether 
small or great, with whatsoever views they 
may be formed, whatever powers they may 
possess, by whatever ties they may be con- 
nected, through whatever period they may 
continue, and whatever influence they may 
have upon the happiness or misery of the 
•rest of mankind, are all the creatures of God, 
and in their respective spheres and various 
operations they are subservient to his will, 
nor can they, upon any occasion, or in any 
degree, exceed the limits which his wisdom 
hath prescribed. 

The social connexions, which are of the 
greatest importance in human life, are do- 
mesttc, political, and religious ; and it may 
be of use briefly to trace the governing pro* 
vidence of God in each of these interestiDg 

I. It is God that '' settetb the solitary ia 

204 The Providence of God 

families:'' he places his human ofispringin 
those circumstances, and implants in their 
breasts those affections, by which they are 
prompted to unite in the powerful and en- 
dearing bands of domestic society. 

By the order of Providence the number 
of which each of these lesser communities is 
composed is determined and limited. And 
while some families are destitute of heirs to 
rescue their names from oblivion, others are 
blest with a numerous, a vigorous, and a 
virtuous progeny, to inherit their fortune 
and their fame, the pride of their delighted- 
parents, and the consolation of their ad- 
vancing years. 

The habits, the actions, and the charac- 
ters of individuals, originating in the cir- 
cumstances in which they are placed, and 
the impressions to which they are exposed, 
the will of a governing providence is to be 
acknowledged, whether, on the one hand, 
in consequence of the infirmities, the vices, 
or the extravagant passions of its members, 
the household be a scene of discord, confu- 
sion, and wretchedness ; or whether, on the 

overriding the Social State of Man. 205 

other, it be an abode of harmony, order, 
and felicity, as the fruit of prudence,: of good 
temper, of mutual forbearance, and kind 

It is the will of Providence that some fa- 
milies should be elevated to notice and dis- 
tinction, while others pass into obscurity 
and disgrace. He maketh poor, and he 
maketh rich. To some are granted the 
means of opulence, and those habits of sa- 
gacity, industry, and economy, which enable 
them to improve to the best advantage 
every favourable opportunity, and raise 
them to the envied summit of wealth and 
splendour. Others are doomed to poverty 
and misery, being destitute either of the 
means of bettering their condition, or of 
those qualities of mind without which the 
most splendid external advantages are of no 
use. Life and death are in the hands of 
God — health and sickness are at his disposal 
— ^all the elements are under his control, and 
the powers of nature are his varied energy. 
If numerous families, in their widely ex- 
tended ramifications, enjoy through a long 

206 The Prtmdence of God 

series of years the inestimable blessings of 
health, vigour, and cheerfulness, with little 
or no interruption, these blessings are the 
gift of God ; it is he who crowneth each 
successive year with his goodness. But, on 
the contrary, if pain or sickness be an in- 
mate in the household, if disastrous acci-^ 
dent, or acute disease, derange the animal 
economy, this is likewise the visitaltion of 
God. If death be a frequent and unexpected 
visitor, not only demanding the aged and 
infirm, to whom his message would be wel- 
come, but summoning those who least think 
of it, or can least be spared — if at ode time 
he arrests the father of the family, by whose 
industry it was supported, by wbosfe pro- 
dente it was governed, and by who96 i^?rtaes 
it was edified ; if at another time he seizes 
upon the tender mother, whose fostering 
care was needful to guard and cherish the 
lielpless years of infancy and ehildhood, 
and whose gentle discipline and mild in- 
struction instilled the principles of eafly 
piety, and formed the young and pliailt 
midd to wisdom and virtue ; if at another 

overruUng the Social State of Man. 207 

time the demands of this resistless power 
are made upon the rising branches of the 
family, which are torn one after another 
from the parent stock, till at length the 
once flourishing and fruitful txse is left a 
naked and an unsheltered trunk — be it re^ 
membered that all this is the work of God» 
in whose hand is the life of every living 
thing, and the breath of all mankind. Death 
is the servant of Providence, who can never 
act but under orders, nor can in any case 
exceed the limits of his commission. EvenU 
which we ignorantly call fortuitous, and 
which we erroneously deem avoidable, as 
well as those which take place in the ordi^ 
nary and inevitable course of things, were 
all foreseen, intended, and provided for in 
the immutable councils of Heaven, and 
constitute essential parts of that plan which, 
we are assured, is the wisest and the best. 

This view of tbe divine government, as 
extending to domestic societies, is highly 
beneficial and instructive, and cannot fail to 
excite habitual and active gratitude for do- 
mestic blessings. It will likewise draw the 

208 The Providence of God 

sting of domestic calamity, however com- 
plicated, severe, or long-continued. It will 
soothe and harmonize the mind, and restrain 
all murmuring and complaint, not by pro- 
ducing a sullen submission to fate that can- 
not be controlled, and to power that cannot 
be resisted, but by generating a rational 
and calm acquiescence in the dispensations 
of infinite wisdom and benevolence, under 
a firm conviction that nothing can happen 
wrong under the divine government, and 
that the ultimate issue of all will be glorious 
and happy. 

II. The empire of Divine Providence ex- 
tends to states and civil communities. 

There is a very just sense, a sense per- 
fectly consistent with the soundest philoso- 
phy, and the truest liberty, in which "the 
powers which be are ordained of God." 
It is the will of God, because it is essen- 
tial to the happiness of mankind, that 
men in a savage and independent state, 
in which the insecurity of person and of 
pi'operty is inconsistent with all intellectual, 
moral, and political improvement, should 

(yoerruling the Social State of Man. 209 

form themselves into civil communities for 
the purposesof mutual protection and safety 
— and whatever be the actual state of so- 
ciety, in nations civilised or uncivilised, if 
is all the necessary and foreseen result of 
those circumstances in which such nations 
were originally placed ; and in this view it 
may be regarded as the appointment of 
God, that one nation should remain in a 
barbarous and uncultivated state, almost 
without the form or appearance of civil 
union, ranging the forests, or roaming over 
the plains and deserts like beasts of prey : 
that another country should groan under 
the yoke of a devouring despotism, where 
neither actions, norwords, nor even thoughts 
are free, and where the most innocent ex- 
pressions and gestures are interpreted into 
overt acts of treason and rebellion, and 
subjected to the most exorbitant penalties : 
that another should be agitated with all 
the evils of anarchy, in which the sacred 
name of liberty is prostituted to the support 
of tyranny more savage and unrelenting 
than despotism itself: and to what can it 


210 The Providence of God 

so justly be ascribed as to the distinguish- 
ing favour of the Almighty, that another 
nation should be blest with a free and a 
just government, with a mild, a firm, and 
temperate administration ; in which laws 
are framed with prudent deliberation, wise- 
ly adapted to the exigencies of the state : in 
which the empire of law extends to every 
class of society, and the greatest as well as 
the least are amenable to its control; in 
which arbitrary power is unknown, and no 
authority is acknowledged but that which 
is supported by law; in which justice is ad« 
ministered by those whose approved inte* 
grity, whose known wisdom and experi- 
ence, whose high professional character, 
and whose lofty spirit and independent 
station best qualify them for the arduous 
and honourable office, and insure the faith- 
ful and impartial discharge of its sacred 
duties ; in which wicked and violent men 
are rigidly restrained from perpetrating the 
mischief which is in their hearts; while per* 
sonal security affords the best encourage- 
ment to the exertions of human industry 

overruling the Social State of Man. 211 

and talent, for enlarging the sphere of sci- 
ence, and for the improvement of the arts 
which multiply the comforts, and embellish 
the manners of human life, and which ame- 
liorate the condition of man. " Happy is 
the nation which is in such a case ;" yea, 
thrice happy, if by the vigour of its coun- 
cils, and the overruling care of Providence, 
its prosperity and tranquillity have been 
secured, while the demon of anarchy was 
abroad, and states the most prosperous, and 
empires the most powerful either have sunk 
under its ponderous and destructive arm ; or 
stood trembling and aghast in fearful sus- 
pense, and anxious apprehension of what 
was still future. If, amidst the general 
consternation and dismay, the British em- 
pire retained its laws, its rights, its religion, 
its happy constitution, its invaluable liber- 
ties ; if she could hurl defiance at her ene- 
mies who threatened her independence, and 
crush into the dust the men who would 
disturb her internal peace, whatever merit 
belongs, and whatever gratitude is due to 
subordinate instruments, the chief praise of 

p 2 

212 The Pr(mdence of God 

this high distinction, of this pre-eminent fe- 
licity, is to be ascribed to that guardian 
power which has so often interposed in be- 
half of Britain on fornner occasions, in cir- 
cumstances the most critical, under appre- 
hensions the most alarming. Who seeth 
not in all these that the hand of the Lord 
hath wrought this ? 

It is the providence of God which pro- 
tects infant and feeble communities from 
hostile invasion, and by the practice of in- 
dustry, economy, and public virtue, raises 
them to opulence, power, and considera- 
tion ; and it is the same almighty will 
which reduces to imbecility, contempt, and 
servitude, states that have grown insolent 
and overbearing by prosperity, and which 
have enervated themselves by luxury and 
vice. " He poureth contempt upon princes, 
and weakeneth the strength of the mighty. 
He increaseth the nations and destroyeth 
them, he enlargeth the nations and straiten- 
eth them again.'' 

That the state and character of civil 
communities, their rise and progress, their 

merruling the Social State of Man. 213 

decline and fall, are directly ordered by di- 
vine Providence, and form a constituent 
part of a system planned in the councils of 
heaven, will be denied by none who believe 
that God is omniscient, and that all his 
works were known to him from the crea- 
tion of the world, unless they are also pre- 
pared to maintain that the governor of the 
universe did not intend that which he dis- 
tinctly foresaw as the inevitable consequence 
of his own operations, when it was also in 
his power, by adopting a different plan, to 
have produced a different result. The ar- 
gument is so clear, that in a firm, reflecting, 
and comprehensive mind, it must produce 
unhesitating conviction. 

And it is a conclusion fraught with the 
most important and consolatory conse- 
quences. If God governs all, we are sure 
that all is governed well. And all the evils 
which take place in the political system, 
however numerous and great they may ap- 
pear to the microscopic eye of man, are, to 
a being who comprehends universal nature, 
nothing more than occasional discords in a 

214 The Pravidaice of God 

grand concert of music, which 'only serve 
to enhance the relish, and to mellow the 
harmony of the whole. AH will eventually 
terminate well, and infinite benevolence, 
directed by infinite wisdom, shall in the end 
shine forth with unbounded and unrivalled 
splendour in all the works of God, and in 
all the dispensations of his government. 
'' The Lord reigneth ; he is clothed with 
majesty. In vain do the floods lift up their 
voice and toss their rebellious waves. The 
Lord on high is mightier than the noise of 
many waters, yea, than the mighty waves 
of the sea. Clouds and darkness are round 
about him ; but justice and judgment are 
the pillars of his throne." 

III. The empire of Providence extends 
to religious societies, and governs the affairs 
of the church of Christ. 

A congregation of faithful men, associated 
together for the purposes of Christian wor- 
ship, is the true definition of a church of 
Christ, and the universal church consists of 
the general body of Christian worshippers 
throughout the world. 

overruling the Social State of Man. A16 

• Societies of this nature have never been 
totally extinguished, and never will ; for 
the church of Christ is built upon a rock, 
and the gates of hell shall never prevail 
against it. 

The providence of God extends its regard 
to this important object, and the state of 
religion in the world at large, the various 
dispensations under which it has existed, 
and the interests of every particular religi- 
ous community, are under the direction of 
his governing will. 

He originally formed men rational be- 
ings, capable of religion and virtue, and 
communicated those notices concerning his 
attributes and will in the patriarchal age, 
either by the light of nature or by imme- 
diate revelation, which led to a state of 
knowledge and practice that was best 
adapted to the infancy of the world. 

For wise, but unknown reasons, he per- 
mitted the human race to fall into circum- 
stances which produced an almost univer- 
sal apostacy and idolatry, and in this state 
of things his wisdom interposed to select 

216 The Prwidence of God 

the family of Abraham as an example for 
the instruction and admonition of the rest 
of mankind. 

In the course of his mysterious provi- 
dence, and conformably to his wise, but 
unsearchable councils, he permitted this fa- 
mily and nation to fall into a state of igno- 
rance and vice almost equal to that of their 
heathen neighbours, and in due time he 
sent his faithful servant, and beloved son 
Jesus Christ to instruct and to reform the 
world, to turn men from darkness to light, 
and to open a way for the recovery both of 
Jews and Gentiles to the knowledge of 
truth, and the practice of duty. He fur- 
nished the first teachers of this heavenly 
doctrine with extraordinary powers, and in 
the midst of opposition and persecution he 
crowned their faithful and persevering la- 
bours with astonishing success. 

It was nevertheless a part of the wise and 
benevolent plan of his unerring councils, 
that this pure and sublime doctrine should 
soon be corrupted and debased, and that in 
process of time it should be almost annihi- 

overruling the Social State of Man. 217 

lated and lost. Yet it pleased him from 
time to time to raise up faithful and ap- 
proved witnesses to the cause of truth, who 
in virtuous succession entered their strong 
but unavailing protest against the growing 
corruptions of the christian doctrine, who 
bore their generous testimony amidst ca- 
lumny, opposition, and bitter persecution, 
and many of whom sealed their profession 
with their blood. The era of the reforma- 
tion was distinguished by the vigour and 
success of its opposition to the enormities 
of the Roman church ; and though much 
was left undone by the great and good men 
who conducted the opposition to papal ty- 
ranny, the grand protestant principle, the 
right of private judgment, was then trium- 
phantly established, and consecrated and 
ratified in the blood of tliousands of inno- 
cent and holy victims. 

And in the ages which have succeeded, 
many illustrious characters have from time 
to time been raised up by divine Provi- 
dence, to express their desires, and to exert 
their efforts, however feeble and ineffectual. 

218 The Providence of God 

for correcting what still remains amiss, erro- 
neous, or imperfect, and for completing the 
work which their forefathers so piously and 
laudahly began. ISor has their honourable 
ministry proved altogether fruitless. 

And the christian church, as it now ex- 
ists in the world, whether in a purer or a 
more corrupt state, whether in the form of 
national establishments or of separate and 
independent societies, remains under the 
protection of a wise and powerful Provi- 
dence, whose attention to its interests is not 
for a moment suspended. 

Believing, as we do, upon evidence the 
most satisfactory, in the universal govern- 
ment of God, and in the absolute perfection 
of the divine character, the consideration of 
that providence which he continually exer- 
cises over his church is a source of exquisite 
delight and permanent consolation. 

We learn to be satisfied with the effect 
of our own exertions in the cause of truth 
and virtue, because we are assured, that 
whether our success be more or less, it ex- 
actly corresponds with the wisdom of the 

overruling the Social State of Man, 219 

divine plan, and occupies that space which 
the general good requires. 

We learn to acquiesce in these distinct 
tions and divisions which have at all times 
prevailed, and do now subsist in the chris- 
tian church ; and while in the exertion of 
our best talents we endeavour to diffuse the 
knowledge of christian truth, and the prac- 
tice of christian duty in that church of 
which we are members, and which we re- 
gard as approximating the nearest to the 
evangelical standard, we are well satisfied 
that others should be occupied in different 
places, and in different ways, in advancing 
the same important cause, we rejoice in 
their success, and we do not presume to 
limit the Arbiter of events to those means 
and instruments which we judge most be- 
coming and efficacious, and which, there- 
fore, it is our duty to employ. 

We are not discouraged at the slow pro- 
gress of truth and virtue, and the obstruc- 
tion which they meet with from the preju- 
dices, the interests, and the bad passions of 
mankind : we do not suspect the truth of 

220 The Providence of God 

what we have admitted upon the most sa« 
tisfactory evidence, and after the most dili- 
gent inquiry, merely because we see the 
multitude against us. 

Nor are we alarmed at the unusual pro- 
gress of infidelity and atheism in modern 
times. With pity, and with wonder, we 
regard numbers of whom we once enter- 
tained better expectations, entangled in 
the web of artful sophistry, and misled by 
the illusions of a false philosophy. But we 
see no reason to forego our confidence in 
the power of truth, and firmly believing in 
the divine authority of the christian reve- 
lation, we entertain no doubt of its ultimate 

Lastly, as the christian prophecies have 
been so distinctly fulfilled in the corrup- 
tions of the christian doctrine, and the 
apostacy of the professing church, we anti- 
cipate with pleasing expectation the ac- 
complishment of those sacred oracles which 
predict the final and universal triumph of 
the christian religion. And in the exercise 
of an unwavering faith we fervently pour 

overruling the Social State of Man. 221 

out the petition which we have learned of 
our lord and master, " may thy kingdom 
come, and thy will be done on earth as it 
is done in heaven !" 



AcTS| XXV. 18, 19. 

Against whom^ when the accusers stood up^ they brought 
no accusation of such things as I supposed: but had 
certain questions against him of their own superstition 
(religion) and of one Jesus who was deady whom Paul 
affirmed to be alive. 

These words are addressed by Festus to 
king Agrippa, who was at that time making 
a complimentary visit to the Roman gover- 
nor at Cesarean to congratulate him upon 
his appointment to the province of Ju- 
dea, and upon his safe arrival in the coun- 
try. They relate to a charge against the 
apostle Paul ; whom Felix having, in ex- 
pectation of a bribe, unjustly detained two 
years in confinement, had now, to pacify 
the Jews, who were incensed at the ty- 
ranny of his administration, left in bonds 
to the judgment of his successor. Festus 

Report of Festus to Agrippa. 223 

informs Agrippa that the singular virulence 
of the Jewish rulers against this prisoner 
had induced him to embrace the earliest 
opportunity of inquiring into the nature 
and malignity of his offences; but what 
was his astonishment when he found, that 
instead of charging him with some great 
political offence, or some gross violation 
of civil rights, they only accused him of 
maintaining that a man who had been put?- 
licly put to death some years before, was 
still living. 

This he calls a question of their own su- 
perstition, or rather of their own religion ; 
for, little as Festus might in his heart re^ 
spect the Mosaic revelation, he was too 
accomplished a courtier to use so contemp- 
tuous an expression in the presence of 
Agrippa, who was himself a Jewish prince. 

Upon this report of Festus to Agrippa, in 
connexion with the history in which it is 
recorded, I now proceed to make some 

I. In the first place, we may observe this 
obstinate, prejudice and savage malignity- 

224 Report of Festtis to Agrippa 

of the Jewish priests and rulers against the 
christian religion, and the first authorized 
teachers of it. 

No sooner had the governor taken pos- 
session of his office than the principal ma- 
gistrates of the Jews, both civil and eccle- 
siastical, immediately combine to prosecute 
the impeachment of the venerable prisoner 
whom Felix had left in bonds ; and they 
embraced the early opportunity of a visit 
of compliment and curiosity, which Festus 
made to the metropolis, to bring up their 
charges against Paul. They first request 
that he may be removed from Cesarea, 
virhere he was then confined, and which 
was the principal seat of the Roman go- 
vernment, to Jerusalem, piously intending 
to assassinate him upon the road. Pro- 
videntially, this nefarious design proved 
abortive. The governor denied the re- 
quest, and ordered the attendance of the 
accusers at Cesarea, whither their officious 
zeal soon despatched a deputation from 
their own body, with the orator TertuUus 
at their head, to prefer an indictiQent at 

against the Apostle Paul. 225 

the bar. of the governor : and many and 
grievous were the complaints which they 
alleged against him. But to what did they 
amount? And what could they prove? 
Had he violated the laws of his country ? 
Had be infringed the prerogative of the 
emperor? Had he encroached upon the 
honours and emoluments of the ecclesiasti- 
cal establishment? — No. The apostle bold- 
ly appeals to his accusers and his judges. 
Neither against the law of the Jews, neither 
against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, 
have 1 otfended any thing at all. Nor could 
bis enemies invalidate the appeal. 

What then was the daring and atrocious 
crime which called forth these vociferous 
clamours ? this malignant prosecution ? this 
sanguinary conspiracy? The fact was, that 
the apostle had the confidence to claim, and 
to exercise the right of obeying the dictates 
of his own conscience; of dissenting from 
established modes of worship and formula- 
ries of faith ; and of worshipping the God of 
hi3 fathers in a way which his enemies were 
pleased to stigmatize as schism and heresy. 


326 Report of Fe$tu$ to Agrippa 

And though prohibited by penal laws, in^ 
suited by interested priests, and persecuted 
by a deluded poputacei he had boldly and 
publiciy taught the gospel with wbich he 
had been intrusted. He bad not hesitated 
to declare, and folly and successfully to 
prove, to the conviction of thousands, and 
in the presence of hosts of enemies and 
persecutors, that this very Jesas, whom 
they had accused as a blasphemer and a 
traitor, and whom they had crucitied as a 
malefactor, had been raised from the 
grave, and exalted at the right hand of 
God, to be a prince and a Saviour. For 
such reasons did these infatuated priests 
and rulers, in the madness of their zeal for 
what they presumed to call the gtory of 
God, and the credit of their reKgion, first 
conspire to assassinate this distinguished 
messenger of Christ, and when they fiuled 
in this base design, they laboured to preju- 
dice the Roman governor against him, and 
by a complication of false and foolish 
charges to persuade Festus that he had for- 
feited his life to the justice of his country. 

ugqimt the Affile Paul. 227 

Such was the inveterate malice of his 
countrymen to this great apostle, to this 
eelightened, zealous, and divinely autho* 
rised teacher of truth and righteousness. 
Such, in every age, have been the effects 
of inteipperate and misguided zeal, or ra* 
ther of that bitterness and malignity, which 
too often assumes the vene^ble name of 
zeal for truth and righteousness. So that 
the phrase, theological hatred, has even 
passed into a proverb to express the bit- 
terest animosity ; to the great scandal of 
religion, and especially of the christian 

If then we are Christians indeed, and 
profess ourselves to be disciples of this 
eminent apostle and of his great master, let 
us remember that the first law of our pro- 
fession is peace and good-will ; that one of 
the first duties incumbent upon us is the 
firm, open, and fearless profession of chris- 
tian truth ; but without any officious eur 
croftchment upon the rights of others, .and 
above all, without presuming to arraign 
the .G<widuQt of 'thooe^ wbo» in similar cir- 

Q 2 

5J28 Report of Festus to Agrippa 

cumstances, may not feel themselves called 
upon to act a similar part: and if, in the 
peaceable profession of christian truth we 
suffer contempt, desertion, and persecution, 
it is our duty, like this magnanimous ser- 
vant of Jesus, to bear with cheerfulness the 
loss of all things, and even to rejoice and 
give thanks, if we are counted worthy of 
enduring hardship in so glorious a cause; 
but, upon no consideration are we to re- 
taliate the injuries we receive. We must 
leave to others the unrestrained and un- 
molested exercise of that right of judgment 
which we claim for ourselves, as inherent 
and indefeasible; not insulting our bre- 
thren, however erroneous, with contemp- 
tuous or opprobrious language; retorting 
no abuse; mildly instructing those who 
are willing to learn, and are inclined to 
listen to argument ; and abhorring, and ut- 
terly disclaiming all force but that of rea- 
son and of truth. These were the weapons to 
which the christian religion owed its first 
success after the age of miracles was pass- 
ed; and to these alone will it stand in- 

against the Apostle Paid. 229 

debted for its final and universal triumph. 
Let us then, my brethren, put on this pan- 
oply, this complete armour of the gospel, 
that so we may withstand in the evil day, 
and haying done all may stand. 

SecQndly. Observe the mse and equit- 
able conduct of Festus as a governor and 

Festus states to king Agrippa that he 
of course expected the prisoner would be 
charged with some atrocious civil or politi- 
cal offence ; some violation of law, some 
crime against the person or authority of 
Caesar; but what was his astonishment 
w^hen he found that the man against whom 
the whole Jewish government bad arrayed 
its force, and whom the priests and rulers 
were prosecuting to the last extremity, was 
charged by them with no other crime than 
one which related to their own speculative 
theology. This enlightened and philoso- 
phic governor would not suffer a man to be 
impeached at the Roman tribunal on ac- 
count of his religious principles, nor would 
he hear of inflicting pains and penalties 

230 Report of Festus to Agrippa 

upon a Roman citizen because he was un- 
sound in the faith, and held opinions differ- 
ent from those of the established priest- 
hood. Under his administration he was 
willing that all who performed their civil 
duties should enjoy their civil rights, and 
so long as the public peace was preserved 
he gave himself no concern about their 
private speculations, or their religious quar- 

Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, Acts, 
xviii., adopted the same liberal and equit- 
able system of government. When the 
apostle was brought before his tribunal, 
upon the popular cry of heresy and schism, 
and his enemies vociferated the usual cla- 
mor, this fellow persuades men to worship 
God contrary to law, the sagacious magis- 
trate would not allow the apostle even to 
oflFer his defence, but himself replied to the 
accusers in a speech which deserves to be 
held in honorable and everlasting remem- 
brance. '* If," says the upright and enligh- 
tened judge^ ''it were a matter of fraud and 
injustice, reason would that I should bear 

against the Apostle Paid, 231 

with yoM, but if it be a verbal question^ or 
a curious speculation, I will be no judge 
in such matters:" and he wiseily dismissed 
the cause. 

To the credit of the heathen magistrates 
it must be acknowledged, that the early 
Christians were often indebted to their in- 
terposition for protection from the furious 
persecutions of the Jews; and though, 
when their numbers became sufficiently 
considerable to attract the attention of the 
Roman emperors; and when it was disco- 
vered that the christian religion waged 
open war against all other modes of wor- 
ship, and that its professed object was to 
exterminate all the long established and 
highly, venerated systems i>f polytheism 
and idolatry, the Christians were exposed 
to many severe and bloody persecutions; 
yet it is a fact too palpable tq be denied, 
that heathens f^evjer persecuted Christians 
with that cemorselet^s . and unrelenting 
cruelty with which m^ professing the 
Christian name have persecuted each other. 
In the Netherlaods alonct and in the single 

232 Report of Festus to Agrippa 

reign of the Emperor Charles V. it has been 
computed that more christian blood was 
shed on a religious account, than in all the 
ten famous persecutions of heathen Rome. 

But, oh! that christian magistrates, in all 
ages, had been as equitable and as candid 
as these enlightened and philosophic Ho- 
mans. Oh ! that, like Festus and Grallio, 
they had ever been cautious of interfering 
in cases of theological controversy, in vain 
questions of superstition, and in the sacred 
rights of conscience. What cruel persecu- 
tions would have be6n spared! what san- 
guinary civil commotions would have been 
prevented ! what deluges of human blood 
would have been saved ! In what purity, 
and to what extent, would the divine light 
of the gospel have beamed abroad, unsul- 
lied by human mixtures, and undebased 
by popular corruptions ! 

Thirdly, Mark the contempt in which the 
christian religion is held by those wlio are 
ignorant of its true nature and design. 

The Roman governor, who, no doubt, 
professed to be the worshipper of his coun- 

against the Apostle Paul. 233 

try's gods ; who was, perhaps, a sceptic ; 
who was certainly a man of an enlarged 
and liberal mind; and who, probably, held 
in contempt all the objects of popular su- 
perstition ; who also appears to have been 
an utter stranger to the laws and traditions 
of the Jews ; seems to have been greatly as- 
tonished and amused at the malignity and 
fury with which the leaders of the Jewish 
church and state prosecuted a man for an 
assertion, which, in the estimation of Fes- 
tus, proved him to be a fitter object for an 
asylum of lunatics than for a public prose- 
cution. It was a question about one 
Jesus, who was dead, whom Paul af- 
firmed to be alive. A notable question, 
truly, to be brought before the Roman 
tribunal, to be made the subject of a grave 
charge, and of a capital indictment, for 
which the prisoner had been kept two 
years in confinement, and, to save his 
life, had now thought himself obliged to 
appeal to Caesar. The rancour of the pro- 
secutors, and the pertinacity- of the pri- 

Sd4 Report ofFetttis to Agrippa 

soner, in a question apparently so exirava* 
gant, and of so little moment, must have 
appeared equally inexplicable to this in- 
credulous and philosophic judge. Well 
might he be at a loss what to write to the 
emperor upon a subject so singular and 
unprecedented ; and, in his own judgment^ 
so truly ridiculous and absurd. 

Oh Festus! little didst thou suspect 
thine own deep interest in this apparently 
trivial and extravagant question. little 
wert thou aware that this Jesus, of whom 
thou speakest with such an affectation of 
contempt, who had indeed been dead, bot 
who, as his persecuted apostle truly and 
earnestly affirmed, was then alive, irasia 
personage of the most exalted dignity, ithe 
chosen son of God, the faithful messeagev 
of truth, the 'divinely appointed instructor 
and Saviour' of the world, and that all 
hope of future existence rests upon his 
doctrine and resurrection. Little didst 
thou apprehend that the venerable prisiNwr 
whom thou rudely chargedst as a lunatic, 

ugtdnst the Apostle Paul. US 

was hii3 authorised embassador to publish 
hiis doctrine to all nations, and to defend 
his cause before governors and kings< 

Had Festus condescended to examine 
this question with the attention to which 
it is entitled, had he vouchsafed to listen 
to those words of truth and soberness 
which his illustrious prisoner would glad- 
ly have imparted, he would probably 
have learned, like that prisoner, to have 
revered the doctrine which he now slight- 
ed, and to have looked for salvation to 
that Jesus whom he now rejected with 

But such is the prevailing folly of man- 
kind. They judge with partiality and 
prejudice. Seldom do they inquire after 
truth with a humble and a candid mind ; 
and what they do not understand they are 
prone to despise. 

And this is peculiarly observable where 
religion is in question. Whence tloes 
it arise that the christian rdigion is so 
little esteemed, and the serious and sincere 
profession of it is so often the obje^ of a 

S36 Rq^t of Festus to Agrippa 

sneer among men who set themselves up as 
the oracles of wisdom and philosophy ; the 
great, the learned, and the wise; who 
scarcely regard a true believer as a man of 
a sound understanding? The fact is, that 
such persons are either too indolent to 
examine, or too prejudiced to form a cor- 
rect judgment. And assuming, as they 
commonly and naturally do, that the 
established systems of faith are genuine 
Christianity, they readily and justly con- 
clude that such a religion can never claim 
God for its author. 

Let not this be our condemnation. Let 
us maintain a severe guard against preju- 
dice of every kind. Let us be cautious in 
our judgments, and in our censures. Let 
us not underrate any thing, merely because 
we do not understand it Let us not be 
hasty in forming a decision upon subjects 
of importance, and before we have ob- 
tained the proper means of information, or 
taken time sufficient to inquire. 

Let us especially guard against this 
pragmatical spirit in the concerns of reli- 

against the Apostle Paul 237 

gion ; nor let us, at any time, treat those 
with contempt who hold sentiments dif- 
ferent from our own. It is not handsome, 
it is not candid, it is not christian, to re- 
present modes and opinions different from 
those which we profess, as questions of 
mean superstition, or as notions which are 
fit for none but idiots or madmen. Others 
may, perhaps, have better reasons for their 
opinions than we are acquainted with; 
and till we prove our own infallibility, it 
becomes us to think and speak with mo- 
desty and reserve; and, as others differ 
from us no further than we from them, we 
ought in all reason to treat the opinions 
which they hold to be true and important, 
with the same tenderness and respect with 
which we desire that our own may be 
treated by them. If we take it ill to be 
regarded with unkindness, and to be treat- 
ed with harshness, because of the opinions 
which we embrace, in consequence of the 
freedom of our inquiries, let us beware 
that we do not provoke this treatment by 
any unbecoming asperity in our own Ian- 

233 Rqmt qf Feium to Agrippa 

guage and behaviour. Let every one be 
ambitious to demonstrate the excelLenca of 
his system by the moderation of bis lan- 
guage, the gentleness of his iQanoers, the 
beaAJty of his example, and the dignity of 
his character. 

Learn to set a just value on the chris- 
tian revelation. If w<^ understand it 
rightly, we must esteem it highjy; and 
we shall reckon the gospel as our c)uef 
treasure. It is indeed the pearl of grieat 
price, for the purchase of which it is wortb 
while to part with all that we have. lam 
free to acknowledge, for my own part, that 
I see no other ground on which to buiJd the 
hope of a future life but the revelation of 
the gospel. If that fail us, all is lost But if 
Jesus died and rose again, we are assured 
that those also who are asleep, the dead 
of all ages and generations, will 'God bring 
with ;him; and because he lives we shall 
live also. And I bless God> that the .evi- 
dence of that all-important fact, the rowr^ 
rection of Jesus, is such as to warrant the 
most satisfactory practical assent After 

agaimt the Apostle Paul 239 

the maturest deliberation, I am convinced 
that it would be the extreme of folly to act 
upon the supposition that Christianity is 
untrue : and by the help of God, no se- 
cular consideration, no scoffs of infidelity^ 
no violence of persecution, shall ever in- 
duce me to let go this anchor of my hope. 
And I trust that I am noxv speaking the 
language and the feelings of all who hear 

Nevertheless we are not to wonder if 
many despise and reject the christian doc- 
trine ; nor ought we to be discouraged on 
this account. It is owing, either to ig^ 
norance, or to some unhappy preposses- 
sion. They have not duly considered^ nor 
impartially examined the subject What^ 
though like the priests they be men of 
learning, or noble, like Agrippa, or poweiv 
ful) like Festus, yet^ if they reject Chris- 
tianity, they are ignorant of that which it 
most concerns them to know, and are des- 
titute of the one thing needful, of the best 
balm and consolation of human life.. Let 
sudi persons, if they please, sneer and 

240 Report of Festus to Agrippa 

scofF at the christian religion. Let them 
represent its serious professors as hypo- 
crites, or fanatics. He must possess a very 
feeble mind who can be influenced by such 
pointless ridicule to abandon his profes-^ 
sion ; and that man must be very deficient 
in the christian temper who can repel 
these attacks with any other weapons than 
powerful argument and mild expostula- 
tion, thus endeavouring to convince these 
rash and violent assailants, that Chris- 
tianity is the most rational system in the 
world, and that the pure, uncorrupted re- 
ligion of Jesus is the truest and most sub- 
lime philosophy. 

Fourthly, We learn the true summary of 
the apostle's doctrine. 

And that is, that Jesus was dead, and is 
alive. This it seems was the sum. and 
substance of the charge which the great 
men of the Jewish nation, the priests and 
rulers, had to exhibit against their state 
prisoner, the man whom they arraigned at 
Caesar's tribunal of blasphemy and trear 
son ; a charge to which the venerable pri- 

agmnst the Apostle Paid. 241 

soner would readily plead guilty, and 
which indeed he frankly avowed in his 
defence before king Agrippa; and for 
which the incredulous governor rudely 
charged him with insanity. 

And this fact is, in truth, the main pillar 
upon which Christianity rests; the pre- 
cious and chief corner-stone which sup- 
ports and binds together the whole frame- 
work of the building. All the discoveries, 
and all the privileges and blessings of the 
Christian revelation center in these two 
facts, that Jesus was dead and is alive. 

First, The apostle taught that Jesus had 
}deen dead. This he asserted as a notorious 
and indisputable fact, which indeed no one 
was disposed to controvert. He was put 
to death by his enemies : he was publicly 
crucified as a malefactor : thousands were 
witnesses to his expiring agonies : and his 
death was officially certified by his execu- 
tioners to the governor. These were re- 
markable circumstances, and wisely ordered 
by divine Providence to obviate the sus- 


242 R^ort of Festus to Agrippa 

picioD, and even to prevent the possibility 
of collusion. 

Secondly, The apostle also affirmed that 
Jesus, who had been dead, wm now aHoe. 
This was the rock of offence : to the Jews 
a stumbling block, and to the Greeks fool- 

That the culprit who expired upon the 
cross was the promised Messiah, the deli- 
verer of Israel, the anointed king of the 
chosen people of God, whose advent had 
been foretold in the magnificent language 
of prophecy, was a mortifying doctrine, to 
which the prejudiced Jew, bred up with 
far different views and expectations, could 
not listen but with indignation and horror. 
That a dead man had been restored to life 
was a tale which naturally exdted in the 
sceptical Gentile a smile of contempt. 

Yet this was the fact which the venerable 
apostle peremptorily affirmed, and steadily 
and zealously persisted in, at the hazard of 
his worldly all, his reputation, his liberty, 
and his life. And his constancy and zeal, 

against the Apostle Paul. 343 

however it might be taunted as an object of 
ridicule by some, and of reproach by others, 
were in the highest degree reasonable and 
commendable. For the fact was capable 
of the most satisfactory proof, and the be- 
lief of it was of the most interesting impor- 

That Jesus was actually raised from the 
dead, was fully proved by his repeated 
personal appearance to those who, having 
been most conversant with him, were best 
quali6ed to ascertain the fact : first, to the 
women who had been his attendants, and 
whom he had miraculously healed : then 
to Peter and James : afterwards to all the 
apostles, at different times, for the space of 
forty days : and again in Galilee, to more 
than five hundred disciples at once: and 
last of all to the apostle Paul himself, as to 
one born out of due time, as he himself ex- 
presses it. And the testimony of these 
faithful witnesses was confirmed to the world 
by the effusion of the Holy Spirit, and the 
miracles which they were authorized to per- 
form in the name of Jesus. Evidence more 
R 2 

244 Report of Festus to Agrippa 

satisfactory than this cannot even be con- 
ceived by the imagination. It operated 
conviction in the hearts of thousands. Many 
of whom bore their public testimony to the 
truth, and sealed that testimony with th^r 

The consequences of this joyful event are 
of the highest moment. The resurrection 
of Jesus fulfilled the scriptures, confirmed 
his divine mission, and constitute the proof, 
the pattern, and the pledge of the resurrec- 
tion of all his faithful followers. Because 
he lives, we shall live also. 

If then. Christians, we are convinced of 
the certainty of these facts, which consti- 
tuted the leading topics of the apostle's 
preaching, and which do indeed lie at the 
foundation of all Christian hope, let us act 
up to the conviction of our understandings. 
Let us joyfully celebrate the weekly and 
the annual festivals which bring to our re- 
membrance this great event, the resurrec- 
tion of our exalted Master. Let us live as 
those who have immortality in view. Nei- 
ther mourning over our departed friends 

against the Apostle Paul. 245 

as others who have no hope, nor alarmed 
beyond reason at the prospect of our own 
approaching dissolution : anxious for no- 
thing but to secure the approbation of our 
final Judge : and humbly, but cheerfully 
hoping that he who raised up Christ Jesus 
from the dead, will raise up us also by Je- 
sus, to a new, a happy, and immortal life. 




Matthew, xxvii.S. 

Then Judas, who had belayed him^ when he saw thai he 
was condemned^ repented himself. 

The character and fate of this false and 
traitorous apostle suggests to a serious and 
thinking mind many useful reflections, and 
the case does not appear to me to be com- 
monly regarded in its true and proper light. 
I propose, therefore, to offer to your atten- 
tion some general observations upon the 
character of Judas Iscariot — upon his call 
to the apostolic oflSce — upon his crime in 
betraying his master — upon our Lord's pre- 
diction of this event — and upon the guilt 
imputable to the traitor, notwithstanding 
the predestination of the crime. I shall 

Obsenations, S^. 247 

inquire, whether he was admitted to the 
participation of the eucharistic ordinance — 
and likewise into his penitence — and his 
death. I propose also, to make some ob- 
servations upon the value of his testimony 
to the character of Christ — and, lastly, to 
point out the proper improvement of his 
melancholy history. 

1. The character of Judas was plainly 
that of an avaricious man, in whose breast 
the love of money was the predominant 
passion. Of this we have two proofs upon 
record. The first is John, xii. 2. When 
Mary, the sister of Lazarus, in grateful ve- 
neration anointed the feet of Jesus with a 
costly perfume, and wiped them with the 
tresses of her hair, Judas reproved her for 
it; *' Why,*' said he, "was not this oint- 
ment sold for three hundred pence, and 
given to the poor ?" Upon which the evan- 
gelical historian remarks, that '* he said 
this, not that he cared for the poor, but be- 
cause he was a thief, and had the bag, and 
bare what was put therein.*' 

The second is the memorable instance of 

948 Observatiofis upon the Character 

delivering up Jesus for thirty pieces of sil- 

It is plain, therefore, that the love of 
money prompted this base man both to rob 
the poor, and to betray his master. And 
that he was an avaricious man before he 
became an apostle, is evident from the con- 
sideration, that avarice is a passion that 
does not start up instantaneously, but is 
generated by slow process, and requires 
length of time to raise it to that degree in 
which it manifested itself in him. 

It does not, however, appear, that Judas 
was a man of a sanguinary disposition. 
Had this been his known character, he 
never would have been joined to the col- 
lege of apostles. And it does not often 
happen that lovers of money are men of 
blood. Avarice is a timid vice, and though 
it prompts men to trick, and shuffle, and 
over- reach, and steal, and even to betray, 
their best friends, it generally shrinks from 
carnage and blood. 

It is further evident, that though the love 
of money was the governing principle in 

and Crime of Judas. 249 

the heart of Judas; he was not openly pro- 
fligate and rapacious, but must have main- 
tained a decent external character, and 
have preserved himself in a great measure 
free from suspicion, at least, of any disho- 
nesty ; for otherwise he never would have 
been associated among the followers of Je- 
sus, and least of all would he have been en- 
trusted with the care of the common purse. 
And during the whole of his connexion with 
the apostles, his conduct was so guarded 
that when Jesus directed him to finish his 
business quickly, meaning his traitorous 
design, the apostles themselves had no sus- 
picion of it, but thought that their master's 
words were either a direction to prepare for 
the feast, or to distribute something to the 

2. It may be asked. What could induce 
Jems to introduce a person of this charac- 
ter into the society of his apostles ? 

And the most obvious answer to this ques- 
tion would be, that our Lord himself might 
think too favourably of his character, and 
might admit him into his society, not know- 

250 Observations upon the Character 

ing the sordidness of his mind till it was 
afterwards revealed to him. 

But we seem precluded from this answer 
by an observation of the evangelist John, 
ii. 24, 25. '' He knew all men, and needed 
not that any should testify of man, for he 
knew what was in man/* And many in- 
stances occur in his history, in which it ap- 
pears that our Lord was acquainted with 
the thoughts and purposes of his apostles, 
of his enemies, and of all who were about 
him ; and what is still more to the present 
purpose, the apostle John assures us (vi. 64), 
that Jesus, very early in the course of his 
ministry, while he was yet in Galilee, de- 
clared the faithlessness, and predicted the 
treachery of Judas ; " for," adds the sacred 
historian, " Jesus knew from the begin^ 
ning,'' that is, from the beginning of his 
ministry, as this phrase almost universally 
signifies in the writings of this apostle, 
" who they were that believed not, and who 
should betray him." 

It seems, therefore, upon the whole, rea- ^ 
sonable to conclude, that having a distinct 

and Crime of Judas. 351 

foresight of his sufferings from the begin- 
ning of his ministry, and knowing the part 
which this l&ithless disciple was ilestined to 
take in them, though he knew his charac- 
ter, and knew the fatal issue of his con- 
nexion with him, he invited him into the 
society of his apostles for the purpose of 
fulfilling the dreadful part which was as- 
signed him in the approaching tragedy. 

3. The crime of Judas does not appear to 
me to be in general rightly understood. 

It is usually supposed, that such was the 
mercenary and sanguinary spirit of this vile 
traitor, that for the paltry bribe of thirty 
pieces of silver, he formed the deliberate 
purpose of betraying his master into the 
hands of his implacable enemies and mur- 
derers. But this seems to be extravagant 
and impossible. That a man, who must 
have maintained a very decent character 
at least, and who therefore could not be 
notoriously profligate, should for a trifling 
bribe be deliberately accessory to the mur- 
der of one, whom he knew to be a most 
excellent and perfect character, whose. nu- 

252 Observations upon the Character 

merous miracles and accomplished prophe- 
cies decidedly marked him out as a divine 
teacher, and who had graciously admitted 
himself to the most familiar intercourse 
with him, that such a man should at once 
have committed so flagrant a crime, violates 
all probability. It is inconsistent with the 
established principles of human nature, and 
is an instance of villainy unparalleled in 
the annals of the world. 

It is a miserable way of accounting for 
this fact to say, that it was owing to the in- 
istigation of Satan, who, after Judas had re- 
ceived the sop, entered into his heart, and 
prompted him to the cqmmission of the 
<;rime. It needs but little acquaintance 
with scripture phraseology to understand, 
that by the expression of the devil entering 
into his heart, or putting it into his heart, 
nothing more is intended, than that his own 
wicked disposition prompted him to the 
deed. Accordingly, the expression used by 
our Lord, John, vi. 70, is, " Have I not 
chosen you twelve, and one of you is a de- 
vil ;" that is, will prove a wicked, treacher- 

and Crime of Judas. %53 

ous, and false accuser. And it was this 
devil that put it into his heart to betray his 
master, that is, his own wicked passions 
prompted him to the crime. 

And Jndeed, if there was such an omnipo- 
tentf omnipresent Being as many suppose 
the devil to be, who entered into the heart 
of Judas, and irresistibly directed his will 
and his actions upon this occasion, the 
crime and the responsibility of the traitor 
would be entirely lost, which is contrary 
to the whole tenor of the history — and, I 
trust, my christian friends, that we are suf- 
ficiently apprised, that there is no such being 
as the devil, a mighty, invisible, and pow- 
erful spirit, who shares with the Supreme 
in the government of the universe, and 
whose whole employment and delight is 
doing mischief This solution, therefore, 
cannot be admitted. 

The truth appears to be this — that though 
our Lord had repeatedly, and in the most 
explicit terms, foretold his death by the 
hands of his enemies, neither Judas, nor any 
of the other apostles, believed that this 

254 Observatians upon the Character 

event would really take place; but they 
probably understood the prophecy of some 
temporary depression of .his cause, for 
when he was actually seized, they all de- 
serted him. And when he was crucified, 
they abandoned all expectation of deliver- 
ance by him. And though he had foretold 
his resurrection as expressly as his death, 
they do not seem to have entertained any 
hope of it. Nor would they give credit to 
those who first reported that joyful event, 
but regarded their words as ^' idle tales," 
till Jesus himself appeared, and in person 
removed their doubts. 

Judas was probably as incredulous with 
regard to his personal sufferings and deaths 
as the other apostles. There is no reason 
to think that he had not a high esteem and 
affection for his master, or that he would 
have been unwilling to make great sacri- 
fices^ if he had thought that Jesus had been 
in any real danger. We are sure, udeed, 
firom his confession to the chief priests^ that 
no person entertained a more just sense of 
the perfect character of Jesus than this false 

and Crime of Judas. 255 

traitor. But the love of money was the 
base disciple's predominant passion, and 
he hoped that he could obtain his end with- 
out exposing his master to any personal 
risk. He knew the miraculous power that 
Jesus possessed — he knew that he was able 
at pleasure to extricate himself from the 
extremest danger — he had been witness to 
this at Nazareth, where he had made him- 
self invisible to the people who attempted 
to cast him down from a rock — he had wit- 
nessed a similar miracle at Jerusalem, where 
our Lord miraculously escaped from those 
who took up stones to stone him — ^and this 
selfish wretch no doubt flattered himself 
with the hope, that when he had betrayed 
his master with a kiss, Jesus would, by a 
similar miracle, again escape from his ene- 
mies, or that he would, as upon a former 
occasion, strike with supernatural awe those 
who came to apprehend him, and send them 
back to their employers with their business 
unaccomplished. Thus he fondly flattered 
himself^ that his reward would be secure, 
aod bis master unhurt. This is the only 

256 Observations upon the Character 

supposition that makes the conduct of Ju- 
das in the least degree natural and proba- 
ble, and which renders the history credible ; 
and the sequel of the story proves this sup- 
position to be true. The traitor watched 
the issue through all the circumstances of 
indignity and insult which took place after 
the apprehension of Jesus, expecting no 
doubt every instant, that he would liber- 
ate himself by miracle, till he heard the 
sentence of condemnation passed, and saw 
him led to execution, and then, finding the 
event so contrary to his expectations, he 
could no longer bear the upbraidings of 
his mind^ he makes confession of his guilt, 
Bings down the reward of his treason, heart 
ample testimony to the innocence of his 
betrayed and injured master, and in the 
agony of his heart puts an end to his life. 

According to this account the whole 
history proceeds in a regular, natural, and 
probable train ; but if Judas had been suf* 
ficiently abandoned and hardened delibe- 
rately to intend the death of his master, it 
is hardly to be imagined that he sboald 

and Crime of Judas. 257 

have been so soon overtaken with the hor- 
rors of remorse. 

4. This treachery of Judas was repeatedly 
predicted by Jesus in the course of his mi- 
nistry, and especially at the last passover, 
and immediately before the event took 

The apostle John expressly saith,* that 
he knew from the beginning who should 
betray him; and Matthew writes,f that 
even while they abode in Galilee, Jesus 
said unto them, " The Son of man shall be 
betrayed into the hands of men.*' 

But the manner in which he designated 
the traitor at the paschal feast is related by 
all the four evangelists with some little dif- 
ference in the circumstances. 

The evangelist Luke relates,^ that while 
they were at table, our Lord said to his 
disciples, '' Behold the hand of him that 
betrayeth me is with me on the table, and 
truly the Son of man goeth as it was deter- 
mined : but woe unto that man by whom 
he is betrayed !" and they began to inquire 

* John, vi. 64. + Matt. xvii. 22. t I^"ke> «"• 21. 

258 Observations upon the Character 

among themselves which of them it was 
that should do this thing. Matthew and 
Mark add, that each of them put the ques- 
tion to our Lord himself; one said, is it 
I ? and another said. Lord, is it I ? To 
which Jesus replied, '' he that dippeth his 
hand with me in the dish shall betray me/' 
After which Judas said to him, is it I ? to 
which Jesus assented. Had this transaction 
passed exactly in the manner that these 
evangelists relate, the rest of the disciples 
could not possibly have been at a loss to 
explain the meaning of our Lord's words 
to Judas, when he left the room. 

The apostle John has given a more de- 
tailed and more probable account than 
either of these. He relates, that when Je- 
sus had declared that one of the company 
should betray him, and the disciples looked 
one at another, doubting of whom he spake, 
Simon Peter beckoned to the apostle John 
himself, who was placed next to Jesus at 
the table, and who, according to the incon- 
venient posture of the age, leaned on his 
bosom, to inquire, probably in a whisper. 

and Crime of Judas. 259 

who the traitor was ; and to him alone our 
Lord declared, probably in a tone of voice 
not to be heard by the rest, " he it is to 
whom I shall give a sop when I have dipped 
it. And when he had dipped the sop, he 
gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Si- 
mon/' From this account it should seem, 
that none of the apostles but John and 
Peter knew who the traitor was. And Ju- 
das, moved with indignation and conscious 
guilt, which the evangelist expresses by 
the phrase, " Satan entering into his heart,'* 
rising immediately from the table, went 
out; at which time our Lord said unto 
him, ** what thou doest, do quickly,*' which 
the candour of the other disciples, who 
were not apprized of the circumstance, and 
to whom his previous conduct had afforded 
no reasonable ground of suspicion, inter- 
preted as a direction to provide necessaries 
for the feast, or to distribute something to 
the poor. 

And this appears to be one of those cases 
of minute variation in the evangelical his- 
torians, which, while it must, in the esteem 


260 Observations upon the Character 

of every judicious reader, entirely over- 
throw all pretension to plenary inspiration, 
adds to the general credibility of the his- 
tory, as it affords a clear proof that the wri- 
ters are independent witnesses, who did not 
copy from each other. Mark and Luke 
were not present at the time; and Matthew 
might either be at some distance, or in a 
situation not convenient for observation. 
John, who was himself a party personally 
concerned, the very disciple who put the 
question to Jesus, in consequence of the 
hint given to him by Peter, and who re- 
ceived our Lord's answer, must necessarily 
be the best informed, and his account is 
unquestionably the most authentic. 

5. It has been doubted whether Judas 
retired before the institution of the eucharist, 
or whether he was admitted to the parti- 
cipation of that rite. 

If no account of this transaction were ex- 
tant but that of Luke, we should conclude 
that the traitor did not leave the company 
till after the institution of the eucharist, for 
immediately after the institution our Lord 

and Crime of Judas. 261 

remarks, '' behold, the hand of him that 
betrayeth me is with me on the table/' But 
it hardly seems probable that Judas would 
have been invited to partake of a rite, 
which implies in the worthy communicant 
a speculative faith in Christ, or at least no 
hostile disposition towards him, at the time 
when he was meditating to deliver him up 
to his adversaries ; and the misplacing of 
this circumstance is not the only inaccu- 
racy chargeable upon this portion of Luke's 
history, which is, nevertheless, in the main 
not only an authentic record, but an admi- 
rable composition. The evangelist John 
unquestionably knowing that the other 
three had related the institution of the eu- 
charist at large, gives no account of it him- 
self; but he relates, that the traitor retired 
immediately after receiving the sop. And 
Matthew, who was present, and Mark, who 
had his account from Peter, both relate 
the institution of the eucharist after Ihe de- 
tection of the traitor, though they say no- 
thing of the time when he left the room. 
It seems therefore probable, that Jesus 

262 ObservatiofU upon the Character 

having in general terms announced that 
he should be betrayed by one of the com- 
pany then present, having secretly inform- 
ed John and Peter who the traitor was, 
and having sufficiently notified to Judas 
himself, that he was acquainted with hb 
base purpose, the traitor, full of indigna- 
tion, withdrew, and our Lord then pro- 
ceeded to predict the desertion of his disci- 
ples, and the fall and recovery of the apos- 
tle Peter ; after which he instituted the or- 
dinance that was designed to commemo- 
rate his death. 

This question is of no further practical 
use than as the admission of Judas to par- 
ticipate in the rite, would seem to counte- 
nance the admission of persons of all prin- 
ciples and characters to partake of this 
christian institution; than which nothing 
would be more improper or indecent; 
whoever professes, and speculatively be- 
lieves the christian religion, and maintains 
a character not grossly inconsistent with 
his profession, is in duty bound to make 
this public profession of- his faith, and chil- 

and Crime of Judas. 263 

dren ought by all means to be brought to 
the Lord's table, in the same manner as to 
other christian ordinances, when they can 
attend there with decency ; but professed 
unbelievers can never desire to attend, and 
persons of profligate characters ought not 
to be tolerated in christian societies ; with 
such persons, says the apostle, " we are not 
even to eat,'' that is, to unite in any act of 
christian fellowship.* 

6. It is worthy of remark, that though 
the Scripture represents the treachery of 
Judas as both predicted 9ind fore-ordained, it 
nevertheless declares him to have been 
higldif crimifuil and justly punishable for his 

" The son of man," saith our Lord, in 
the evangelists Matthew and Mark, " go- 
eth as it was written of him/' Luke's ex- 
pression is still stronger, " he goeth as it 
was determined, but woe unto that man by 
whom he is betrayed, it had been good for 
that man if he had never been born." And 
similar to this is the apostle Peter's lan- 
♦ 1 Cor.T. 11. 

264 Observations upon the Character 

guage in the Acts.* " Him being delivered 
by the determinate counsel and foreknow- 
ledge of God, ye have taken, and by wick- 
ed hands have crucified and slain." 

It is a considerable difficulty, and has 
always been considered as such, to explain 
how an action should be represented as pre- 
destinated, and yet at the same time be 
criminal and punishable. Some have cut 
the knot by maintaining, that all voluntary 
actions predicted by God, are so necessi- 
tated, that however criminal in their na- 
ture, the responsibility of the agent is, in 
that case, suspended, and no punishment 
can be justly inflicted. But this is directly 
contrary to the declaration of Scripture, 
which uniformly represents the obstinacy 
of Pharaoh, and the treachery of Judas, 
though predicted, as crimes of the deepest 
dye, and deserving the severest punish- 
ment. Others have endeavoured to solve 
the difficulty by vainly labouring to recon- 
cile the prescience of God with the sup- 
posed free will of man, which is nothing 
♦ AcU, u. 23. 

and Crime of Judas. 265 

less than endeavouring to prove a contra- 
diction to be true. 

The fact is, that though the writers of 
the Scripture were not themselves philo- 
sophers, their language is perfectly consis- 
tent with the truest and the soundest phi- 
losophy of morals and of mind. The me- 
rit or demerit of an action has no relation to 
the certainty or the uncertainty of its event. 
They depend wholly upon its nature and 
tendency, and the moral quality of the ac- 
tion takes its complexion entirely from the 
moral quality of the motive. For in the 
sight of God, and in the constitution of 
things, all events are and must be equally 
certain, and nothing can happen different 
from what is foreseen, permitted, and in 
the language of Scripture and of true phi- 
losophy, ordained by the all-wise, all-com- 
prehending mind of the Supreme Being. 
Judas's treachery arose from a mean, a 
sordid, and avaricious spirit, which stopped 
at no injustice in order to attain its own 
base and unworthy ends. It was, therefore, 
criminal in the highest degree, and as such 
justly deserving of punishment, not indeed 

366 Observations upon the Character, ^. 

a vindictive punishment, for no such punish- 
ment can exist under the government of in- 
nite benevolence. Suffering inflicted with- 
out any beneficial design is unjust and un- 
worthy of God ; but sufferings inflicted to re- 
claim the sufferer, or to warn others, though 
severe and long continued, are not only 
consistent with, but are the result of perfect 
wisdom, justice, and benevolence. Such 
was that punishment which awaited the 
traitor, and which, no doubt, when his heart 
was wrung with anguish at the reflection of 
what he had done, extorted from him the 
bitter exclamation, '' that it would have 
been better for him never to have been 
born." And this prompted him to lay vio- 
lent hands upon himself, and to abandon 
that existence, the burden of which he 
could no longer endure: by which he has 
lefl an awful memorial that the best insti- 
tutions, the most perfect example, the most 
virtuous society, and the most efficacious 
means of improvement, will not alway& se- 
cure men from the perpetration of the 
most odious crimes. . 




Matthew, xxviu 3. 

Tfien Judas, who had betrayed himy when he saw that he 
was condemned, repented himself. 

This false apostle was a native of Iscarioth, 
a town in Galilee, and it is by this title 
that he is usually distinguished from an- 
other apostle of the same name, the brother 
of James, and a near relation of Jesus. 

Of this infatuated and abandoned man 
we have already taken a former occasion 
to observe, that avarice was the predomi- 
nant feature of his character; but, that 
there is no reason to think that he was a 
man of a sanguinary disposition. 

That our Lord associated him into the 

268 Reflections oti the Character, 

company of his apostles with a clear fore- 
sight of the treacherous part he was to act, 
and in order to accomplish the designs of 

That this foolish and wicked disciple be- 
trayed his master into the hands of his ene- 
mies for a trifling bribe, not intending any 
personal injury to him ; but fully expect- 
ing that he would rescue himself, as he had 
repeatedly done, by an exertion of his 
miraculous power. 

That this treachery of Judas had been 
often foretold by Jesus in the course of his 
ministry, and particularly at his last pass- 
over, where he first gave a general intima- 
tion to his disciples that one of the com- 
pany would betray him; after which, he 
privately specified to Peter and John the 
person of the traitor ; and lastly indicated 
it so distinctly to Judas himself, though 
not so openly as to be understood by the 
other disciples, as obliged him to rise up 
and leave the room. 

That he retired probably before the in- 

Crime, and Fate of Judas. 269 

stitution of the eucharist, and without par- 
ticipating in that sacred pledge of fidelity 
and affection. 

Also, that the Scriptures justly represent 
the conduct of Judas as in the highest de- 
gree criminal and worthy of punishment, 
though it was predicted and predestinated 
to take place. 

I now propose to make two additional 
observations, and to conclude with some 
practical reflections. 

I. The Evangelists, Matthew and Luke^ 
record, or are supposed to record, the re- 
morse with which this unhappy man was 
overtaken, and the fatal consequence which 

Matthew relates, that when Judas, who 
betrayed him, saw that he was condemned, 
he repented himself. He watched the is- 
sue of the business, expecting, no doubt, 
every moment, that his master, by the 
exertion of his miraculous power, would 
effect his escape, as at other times. But 
his hour was come ; and though Jesus had 
the same power of confounding his adver- 

270 Rejections an the Character, 

saries, of disarming their malice, or of 
eluding their pursuit, as before, he volun- 
tarily submitted to an ignominious and 
painful death, in order to fulfil his Father's 
pleasure, and to accomplish the great pur^ 
pose of his mission and ministry. But 
when Judas saw that sentence of condem« 
nation was passed by the chief priests and 
council, and that Jesus was about to be led 
to execution, being disappointed in all his 
expectations, his mind was pierced with 
the most cutting remorse, when he consi- 
dered how base, how unjust, how unge- 
nerous, and how impious a part he had 
acted in being accessory to the death of so 
innocent and holy a person, so kind a 
friend, so generous a master, so distin- 
guished a prophet, and divinely inspired 
teacher, — and, wrung with anguish, be 
hastened to the council-chamber, made 
confession of his guilt,, and threw up the 
wages of iniquity. 

The evangelist adds : " He brought the 
thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests 
and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I 

Crime, and Fate of Judas. 271 

have betrayed innocent blood: and they 
said, what is that to us, see thou to that : 
and he cast down the pieces of silver in 
the temple, and departed, and went and 
hanged himself. And the chief priests took 
the pieces of silver, and said, it is not law- 
ful to put them into the treasury, because 
it is the price of blood ; and they took 
counsel, and bought with them the pot* 
ter's field to bury strangers in. Then was 
fulfilled that which was spoken by the 
prophet, saying, and they took the thirty 
pieces of silver, the price of him that was 
valued, whom the children of Israel did 
value, and gave them for the potter's field, 
as the Lord appointed me.'' 

Another account of this transaction is 
given, Acts, i. 16, &c. where the apostle 
Peter, proposing to elect a successor in the 
room of this wicked and unhappy traitor, 
expresses himself in this manner: ''The 
Scripture, which the holy spirit spake be- 
fore by the mouth of David, must needs 
have been fulfilled concerning Judas, for 
he was numbered with us, and bad part of 

272 Reflections on the Character, 

this ministry." Upon which the histo- 
rian, or more probably some other person, 
introduces the following remark, ver. 18, 19, 
" This man truly purchased a field with the 
reward of his iniquity, (and falling headlong, 
he burst asunder in the midst, and all his 
bowels were poured out) and it was known 
to all the dwellers in Jerusalem, insomuch 
that the field was called, in their proper 
tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, the field 
of blood." 

This account in the history of the Acts 
has much the appearance of interpolation, 
and the attempts which learned and inge- 
nious men have made to reconcile it to 
the history in Matthew, and even to pro- 
bability, have not been successful. It is 
introduced very abruptly, and interrupts 
the thread of Peter's harangue. It relates, 
that Judas himself purchased a field, and 
that he lost his life in that field, in the 
miserable manner there described, from 
whence it took the name of the field of 
blood, which is contradictory to the more 
probable account given by Mattbew, viz. 

Crime^ and Fate of Judas. 273 

that he threw down the money in the 
temple, after a confession of his guilt to the 
priests and elders, and immediately de- 
parted and hanged himself— and that these 
holy men, the delicacy of whose conscience 
would not permit them to receive back 
into the temple treasury the price of blood, 
purchased with it the potter's field for the 
burial of strangers. 

It has indeed been said* by those who 
wish to reconcile the two histories, that a 
man is often represented as doing that 
which he is only the cause or occasion of 
another's doing. So Jeroboam is said to 
have made Israel to sin;f and the Jews, 
by wicked hands, to have crucified Christ.^ 
But this expression seems to be used only 
when what is done was intended by the 
person to whom it is ascribed, though not 
his immediate act. Judas, therefore, can- 
not, with propriety, be said to have pur- 
chased the field, for it was bought by 

* Vide Bishop Pearce. + 1 Kings, xiv. 16. 
X Acts, ii. IS. 

274 Reflections on the Character, 

the priests with the money that he threw 

Upon the whole, it seems probable that 
some honest, but ill-informed person, wrote 
the two verses in question in the margin 
of an early copy of the book of Acts, 
which some injudicious transcriber after- 
wards introduced into the text ; of which 
practice it is well known there are other 
instances in the New Testament If this 
was the fact, we need give ourselves no 
further trouble to reconcile the two ac- 
counts, but may satisfy ourselves with that 
of Matthew, which indeed is clear, con- 
sistent, and probable. 

When Judas saw that his master was 
condemned, and his death determined 
upon, he came to the chief priests, pro- 
bably before they had left the temple, to 
deliver up Jesus to the Roman governor, 
made confession of his guilt, bore testi- 
mony to the innocence of his injured dnd 
betrayed master, threw down the wi^^es of 
his iniquity, and went immediately and 

Crime^ and Fate of Judas. 275 

banged himself, being probably dead be- 
fore his master was crucified; soon after 
nrhich the money was applied by the priests 
in the way which the history relates. 

It has been argued by some, that the 
evangelist does not say that Judas laid 
violent hands on himself, but that he died 
of grief, or, as it is commonly expressed^ 
of a broken heart ; and the evangelist's 
words will, perhaps, bear that sense, which^ 
however, is acknowledged to be a very un- 
usual one, and there seems no sufficient 
reason to depart from the commonly re- 
ceived interpretation, especially as this 
supposition affords little assistance towards 
reconciling the inconsistent accounts of 
the death of Judas by Matthew and Luke, 
or rather Luke's interpolator. 

Hhe evangelist, Matthew, in his usual 
way, represents the purchase of the potter's 
field with the thirty pieces of silver, as an 
accomplishment of a prophecy of Jere- 
miah. The words which the evangelist 
quotes are not found in Jeremiah, but in 
T 2 

276 Reflections on the Character, 

Zachariah, xi. 12, 13. This mistake is 
owing, either to an oversight of the evan- 
gelist, which is not probable, for he seldom 
cites a prophet by name ; or to the inatten- 
tion of some transcriber; or, as some not 
improbably conjecture, the last six chap- 
ters in Zechariah, which are written in a 
style different from the rest of the book, 
were originally found in Jeremiah. It is not 
material which of these suppositions is the 
true one. The prophetic words, as usual, 
are only accommodated to the case of 
Judas, and are not intended to be repre- 
sented as a direct prophecy of the fact 
here recorded. The prophet is command- 
ed by God to assume the character of a 
shepherd ; and he requires, that the Jews 
should give him the proper price of a wise 
and faithful shepherd, instead of which 
they offer him only thirty pieces of silver, 
which was the price of a common slave.* 
This sum he is forbidden to accept, and is 
commanded to give it to the potter, pro- 
bably to some of the Levites, who were 
♦ Newcome in loc 

Crime^ andJFate of Judas. 277 

employed in that business, for the service 
of the temple. " Then I said to them, if it 
seem good in your eyes, give me my price, 
but if not, forbear : so they v^^eighed thirty 
pieces of silver; and Jehovah said unto 
me, cast it unto the potter, a goodly price 
at which I have been prized by them. 
Then I took the thirty pieces of silver and 
cast them into the house of Jehovah unto 
the potter." 

It is remarkable, that Jehovah here 
speaks of that virhich was done to his ser- 
vant, the prophet, as done to himself; and 
the evangelist applies the prophecy as 
descriptive of the contemptuous treatment 
which Jesus received, being sold at the 
price of a slave, and of the use to which 
the price of treachery was applied. 

IL Let us now consider the value of the 
attestation borne to the character of his in- 
jured master. ** He said to the chief priests 
^nd elders, I have sinned in that I have 
.betrayed innocent blood, and he cast down 
the pieces of silver in the temple, and de- 
parted, and went and hanged himself" 

278 Refiections an the Character, 

This declaration of Judas has been of-r 
fered by some as a strong argument in fa- 
vour of the character of Jesus, and of the 
divinity of his doctrine. We have here, it 
is said, the confession of an enemy, of the 
man who betrayed him, who was urged by 
every motive of inclination, of honour, and 
of interest, to have detected the drime of the 
man whom he had delivered up to public 
justice if he knew of any, and to brittg for- 
ward every instance of fraud and imposture, 
every appearance of artifice and ^Isehood, 
in order to serve as a plausible pretext to bis 
own perfidious treason. He was one of the 
intimate friends, the chosen companion of 
Jesus, he was witness to all his miracle^f^be 
had heard all his discourses, he had at- 
tended his confidential communications, he 
knew all his designs, and was acquainted 
with the real, as well as with the professed 
object of his public ministry. If there had 
been any thing amiss in his conversation, 
in his conduct, in his most retired scenes, 
his most unguarded moments, this fidtdiless 
disciple must have known it all ; and every 

Crime, and Fate of Judas. 279 

motive, which can influence human nature, 
urged him to disclose it, duty to God, be- 
nevolence to men, justice to his country, the 
indispensable obligation to detect an impi- 
ous fraud, self-interest, his predominant pas- 
sion, regard to his own reputation, and the 
ambition of ingratiating himself both with 
the capricious multitude and the men in 
power, all concurred to induce him to make 
the grand discovery. 

But what was his actual conduct ? The 
reverse of this. Apprized of the unim- 
peachable character of his master, and con- 
vinced of the divinity of his mission, con- 
scious of his own baseness, ingratitude, ac- 
cumulated and unpardonable guilt, he 
rushes, uncalled, into the presence of those 
who were the instigators of his crime, and 
in accents of horror he exclaims, '* I have 
sinned, 1 have betrayed innocent blood ;" 
and when he saw that his efforts to undo 
the mischief he had wrought, and to save 
his injured master from a public execution, 
were fruitless, in the agony of despair he 
puts an end to his existence. What stronger 

280 Rejiectiofi^ an the Character, 

testimony can be borne to the divine mis- 
sion of Jesus, and to the excellency of bis 
character ? 

I believe I have done justice to this cele- 
brated argument; and certainly the con- 
duct of Judas, as stated by the evangelist, 
is calculated to make a lively impression 
upon the minds of those who are previous- 
ly convinced of the truth of the history, and 
of the divinity of the mission of Jesus. 

But it is not an argument that would 
make a considerable impression upon an 
unbeliever. The testimony of an enemy is 
unquestionably one of the strongest evi- 
dences that can be produced in proof of 
any fact. The attestation which Pliny 
bears to the piety, the zeal, the benevo- 
lence, the justice, the fortitude of the pri- 
mitive Christians, is an argument which 
must impress every inquisitive and impar- 
tial mind. And if the perfidious apostle 
had left behind him, in writing, a solemn 
attestation to the character of the master 
whom he injured and betrayed, and if we 
had the same evidence of the genuineness 

Crime, and Fate of Judas. 281 

and the authority of this work, that we have 
of the epistles of Pliny, or the histories of 
the evangelists, this would indeed have been 
a most convincing and triumphant argu- 
ment in favour of the divine authority of 
the christian doctrine. But when the re- 
port of the traitor's confession is only to be 
found in a history drawn up by a professed 
friend of the party accused, it is not an ar- 
gument upon which much stress can, or 
ought to be laid, in reasoning with any who 
are unfriendly to the christian doctrine; 
and the cause of truth is rather injured 
than assisted by laying undue stress upon 
arguments which will not bear examina- 
tion. The truth is, that Judas did not betray 
his master for any enmity that he bore him, 
but from the love of money, expecting he 
would release himself. 

I shall now suggest the proper practical 
improvement of this interesting and affect- 
ing narrative. 

1. This history warns us against covetous- 
ness. The love of money, the apostle saith, 
is the root of all evil. This w^s the promi- 

282 Reflections an the Character, 

nent feature in the character of this faithless 
apostle, which led him on from one crime 
to another till it plunged him in remediless 
perdition. The desire of competence, and 
even of affluence, is a passion generate^ in 
the human mind by observation and expe^ 
rience of the advantages of wealth; and so 
far as it prompts to industry, and while it 
limits itself to fair and honourable means of 
acquiring riches, and is kept in check by 
a benevolent desire to employ opulence, 
when acquired, in doing good, this affec- 
tion is not only innocent but meritorious. 
But it is a passion which easily gains too 
great an ascendancy in the human piind, 
and is more apt than any other to grow as 
we advance in life, so that it often ri^ to 
an exorbitant state, seeking no object bj^t 
its own gratification, and scrupling jfio 
means to accomplish its unworthy purpose : 
honour, integrity, friendship, generosity, 
justice, and duty, are sacrificed upon l^e 
aljtar pf mammon. 

9. We learn the imposdbility of a mqaiCt 
limiting him^df (o a^single vice. Ofie vice is 

Crime^ 4md Fate o/Jwloi. 283 

so connected with another, that a person 
who willingly allows himself in the prao* 
tice of one, will naturally and inevitably 
fftll into another. The faithless disciple 
was governed by the love of money. This 
probably first induced him to join the so- 
ciety of Jesus. He saw that he had the 
elements under his command, and that he 
could at pleasure supply the largest multi«» 
tude with the greatest abundance. He ex- 
pected therefore, that by an early attach- 
ment to his party, and that by being ad- 
mitted to his friendship and councils, he 
should be advanced to some high post of 
honour and emolument in his presumed 
temporal kingdom. In the mean time he 
was the treasurer of ^the small society, 
and he defrauded the poor of the pittance 
that was due to them. And the sordidness 
of his^ mind led him ultimately to treache* 
ry, murder, and suicide. This sad example 
teaches us that we cannot be too much 
upon our guard against the first beginning 
of vice. 
3. The best instruction, and the most excel- 

284 Re/lections on the Character, 

lent example, are sometimes of no avail to re- 
strain men from the commission of the greatest 

If God is just, no man is born wicked. 
But the human character soon takes its 
ply, and persons who are very young some- 
times acquire such confirmed habits of 
vice, that no instruction, no admonition, 
no warning, no reproof, no example, no 
discipline, will correct the depravity of their 
hearts. If virtue was ever secure, it must 
have been in the immediate society of Je- 
sus, listening to his instructions, witnessing 
his miracles, seeing his bright example, and 
indulged with his friendly and confidential 
conversation. Judas had all these, and 
notwithstanding all, he was a covetous man, 
a thief, a traitor, a liar, a murderer, and a 
suicide. I^et us remember that no moral 
advantages are of any use, if we are not so- 
licitous to make a wise improvement, of 
them. When neglected and misapplied 
they only tend to harden the heart, and to 
accelerate our ruin. Nor let those .be. dis- 
couraged who are occasionally unsujccessful 

Crime, and Fate of Judas. 285 

in the task of instruction and discipline. 
There was a case in which the instructions 
of Jesus himself failed of tlieir effect. 

4. We see in the character of Judas the 
insupportable anguish of a guilty mind. 

When he saw the unexpected catastro- 
phe of his wicked machinations, his moral 
feelings were roused, and the consciousness 
of his meanness, selfishness, injustice, trea- 
chery, and impiety, filled him with dismay. 
The situation into which he had brought 
his kind and unoffending master, and the 
prospect of that disgrace and misery which 
awaited him here and hereafter, overpow- 
ered his mind, and drove him to distraction 
and suicide. There is nothing in the world 
more truly formidable than the stings of an 
enlightened conscience. Heavy indeed is 
the burden of a wounded spirit. 

5. There may be bitter remorse where 
there is no true repentance. Such was that 
of this faithless disciple. " When he saw 
what was done^ he repented himself." He 
felt the horrors of remorse, and could no 
lon^r ^oy the w^es of his crime. But 

286 R^ectians on th$ Character, 

his remorse was not genuine contrition. 
His sorrow was not of that godly $ort which 
works repentance unto salvation. Had it 
been such, instead of driving him to suicide, 
it would have led him, like Peter, to tears, 
to contrition, to humility, to a thorough 
renovation of heart and life, to renouQce 
all his selfish pursuits, and to devote him* 
self wholly to the cause of truth and virtue, 
and to the service and honour of that mas- 
ter whom he had injured and betrayed. 
Let no one vainly imagine that he truly 
repents of his vices, because his mind is 
filled with horror at the recollectioii of 
them, unless his convictions induce him to 
fly from the scene of danger and tempta* 
tion, to renounce his vicious practices, and 
to form habits of wisdom and virtue. 

6. Suicide, where it is deliberatehf perpe^ 
traied, is a great moral offence, and argues 
extreme erroneousmfs of judgment, or depror 
vity of mind. 

QThe love of jife is a principle ^ early 
formed,. and so deeply rooted io human na- 
ture, that few are tempted to eYolantary 

Crime, and Fate of Judas. 287 

suicide, who are not previously deprived of 
the use of reason, and in these melancholy 
cases it is the disease which is responsible, 
and not the man. 

Of the guilt of deliberate suicide various 
judgments have been formed. Some have 
even exalted it into a virtue ; others have 
defended it as innocent ; and many have 
loaded it with greater criminality than pro- 
perly belongs to it. 

It has been urged, that when life becomes 
a burden of insupportable weight, there can 
be no harm in relieving ourselves from its 
pressure. But whatever conviction an ar- 
gument of this kind may carry to the mind 
of a heathen philosopher, or of a modem 
unbeliever, it cannot produce the smallest 
effect upon the views and feelings of a Chris- 
tian, who looks up to God as the supreme 
disposer of events, who regards affliction as 
a needful and salutary discipline, and who 
hopes for a reward proportioned to his an- 
tecedent and probationary sufferings; who 
therefore regards it as an indispensable 
duty, like a well-^disciplined centinel, to re- 

288 Refiectians on the Character, 

main at his post till he obtains a regular dis- 
mission from his sovereign chief. The few 
suicides, who are mentioned in sacred writ, 
are not examples for a Christian's imitation. 
It is evident, on the contrary, that Jesus and 
his apostles, though oppressed with sorrow 
and anguish beyond measure and beyond 
their strength, though the most miserable 
of men, if in this world only they had hope, 
never thought of relieving themselves by a 
voluntary death. And though some per- 
sons, in a mistaken zeal for the honour of 
Christ, have represented him as dismissing 
his spirit before the natural period of disso- 
lution upon the cross, which would in fact 
be a commission of suicide, it is well known 
to all, who are competent to judge, that the 
evangelist's expression gives no counte- 
nance to such an interpretation, and signi- 
fies nothing more than that he expired like 
other sufferers. Virtue is, indeed, never 
more illustrious, or more eminently bene- 
ficial, than when she is exhibited as bearing 
sufferings with unbroken fortitude, with du- 
tiful resignation, and with cheerful hope.. 

Crime, and Fate of Judas. 289 

7. Mark the zvickedness of hypocrisy, as 
exemplified in the character of the Jewish 
priests and elders. 

These men had, without scruple, suborn- 
ed treachery, perjury, and murder; but they 
were too conscientious, truly, to put the 
price of blood into the sacred treasury: 
and when the traitor, in the hoii'ors of dis- 
traction, and desirous to remedy the mis- 
chief he had done, proclaimed, in the agony 
of his heart, that he had betrayed innocent 
blood, these pious priests and rulers reply, 
" What is that to us, see thou to that." No 
characters are more truly contemptible, none 
are more diabolically wicked, than those 
who make religion the pretext for rancour 
and revenge. And oppression and cruelty 
are never more odious than when they are 
exercised under the pretence of zeal for re- 
ligion, and by those who are, by profession, 
not only the protectors of innocence, but 
the ministers of peace and virtue. 

8. Societies are not to be charged with the 
errors and the crimes of individual members. 

One dishonest man, one traitor, thief, and 

VOL. II. u 

290 ReJIections on the Character, 

murderer, was found in the society of the 
apostles, and among the companions and 
disciples of Jesus. But how erroneous a 
judgment would they have formed, who 
would have estimated the character of all 
by that of Judas. Let us learn to distin- 
guish between societies, and the individuals 
of which they are composed. Bodies of 
men may sometimes be, upon the whole, 
virtuous and just, and the ends which they 
pursue may be wise and beneficent, while 
individuals belonging to these bodies may 
be rash, turbulent, dishonest, and profligate. 
And, on the other hand, in the worst socie- 
ties there may be individuals who may de» 
serve a better connexion. Let us then 
discriminate in our judgment of characters, 
and neither praise nor condemn promis* 
cuously and without distinction. 

9. Let us adore the depths of the divine 
counsels, in making use even of the vices 
and the crimes of men to accomplish the 
benevolent purposes of the divine govern- 
ment. It was necessary, for various reasons, 
that the death of Jesus should be public. 

Crime, and Fate of Judas. 291 

and particularly that he should be put to 
death by his enemies, that there might be 
no pretence of fraud or collusion in his re- 
surrection. And in order to this, it was 
expedient that a traitor should be found in 
the family of Christ, who should deliver up 
his master to those who sought his life. It 
was by the determinate counsel and fore- 
knowledge of God, that Jesus was delivered 
up, and by wicked hands was crucified and 

Thus it is, that moral, as well as natural 
evil, is constrained to accorhplish the wise 
and benevolent purposes of divine Provi- 
dence, and when it has performed its office, 
it shall be finally exterminated, and shall 
no longer find a place in the works of God. 
'* Whatsoever God does, it shall be for 
ever, nothing can be put to it, and nothing 
can be taken from it, and God does it that 
men should fear before him/' Eccles. iii. 

u 2 



Heb. xii. 16, 17. 

Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau^ 
who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For 
ye know how that afterward^ when he would haoe inhe- 
rited the blessing, he zoos rejected^ for he found no 
place of repentance^ though he sought it carefuUjf 
with tears. 

The design of the writer of this epistle is 
to preserve the Hebrew Christians from 
apostacy, and to this end, in the context, 
he recommends to those believers who were 
most enlightened and confirmed in the 
faith, to keep a watchful eye upon two 
sorts of persons, whose example would 
otherwise have a most pernicious influence 
upon the society. The first were those, 
who in consequence of persecution, com- 
bined with strong Jewish prejudices, were 

Reflections, ^c. 293 

disgusted with the christian religion, and 
were desirous of seducing others from the 
christian faith. These are the persons to 
whom the writer refers, when he exhorts 
them to look dihgently, lest any man, failing 
of the grace of God, that is, becoming an 
apostate from the christian religion, in other 
words, lest any root of bitterness springing 
up, should cause trouble, and thereby many 
be defiled; that is, lest a disgust against 
the christian doctrine growing up secretly 
in the church, like some noxious weed, 
should spread its bane around and destroy 
the precious plants which were within the 
reach of its pernicious influence. Such, 
roots of bitterness were without hesitation 
to be plucked up and cast away. They 
who were disgusted with the christian re- 
ligion, and who were endeavouring to 
spread that disgust among others, were to 
be disowned by, and to be dismissed from 
the communion of believers. 

The second class of persons over whom 
the writer directs sound and established 
Christians to keep a vigilant eye, are those 

294 Reflections on the Character 

who undervalue their christian privileges, 
and who were ready to sacrifice their prin- 
ciples, either to the gratification of their 
passions, or to the advancement of their 
secular interest. These he calls fornicators, 
or profane persons, like Esau, who for one 
morsel of meat, that is, for one repast, sold 
his birthright. " For ye know,'* continues 
he, " how, that afterward, when he would 
have inherited the blessing, he was rejected, 
for he found no place for repentance," that 
is, he could not prevail on his father to 
change his mind, "though he sought it 
carefully with tears/' The writer intimates 
that such persons as these, who adted against 
their better judgment, who sacrificed their 
privilege and birthright as Christians, to 
their passions and self-interest, ought like- 
wise to be excluded fi*om christian com- 
munion, that their example might not infect 
others. Nor should they hastily be admit- 
ted again, even though they professed to 
repent of their folly, and earnestly desired 
to be received once more into christian fel- 

and the Destiny of Esau. 295 

I propose briefly to represent the charac- 
ter and the conductor Esau — his crime and 
punishment-— the unavailableness of his re- 
gret to procure the remission of his sentence 
— and shall conclude with some reflections. 

Esau was the twin brother of Jacobs and 
the elder of the two. He was a man rough 
in appearance and in manners^ but open and 
unsuspicious in his temper ; a man of cou- 
rage, who ddighted in the sports of the field, 
and the favourite of his father, because he 
hunted for him and partook of his good 
cheer. Jacob was more of a domestic cha* 
racter, retired, artful, and over-reaching : 
he was the favourite of his mother. 

Esau, being the eldest, regarded him- 
self as entitled to the right of primogeniture, 
and a blessing having been entailed upon 
the posterity of Abraham and Isaac, he of 
course expected that his own posterity would 
be put into possession, if not of the whole, 
at least of the principal share of the pro- 
mised blessing, whatever that might be. 
And most probably he did not know that 
God, before his birth, had expressly ordained 

99d Ructions en the Character 

the contrary, and had fixed upon the 
younger brother as the heir of the pro- 

Esau, in the text, is called a fornicator. 
In his history he is nowhere charged with 
this vice, and the word is used in a very lax 
sense in the scriptures. This epithet is ap- 
plied to Esau, probably, 

1. Because he married a heathen and an 
idolater, and did not connect himself with 
his own family, which was the earnest wish 
of his parents ; and the disappointment of 
this expectation is repeatedly mentioned as 
a source of bitter regret. But, 

2. He was himself, probably, seduced 
into the practice of idolatry, by means of 
his heathenish and idolatrous connexion. 
Idolatry is often called fornication in the 
scriptures, especially of the Old Testament,' 
and that not merely because the rites of 
heathenism encouraged, and sometimes re- 
quired the most licentious practices, but. 
because the connexion between God and 
his chosen people, being represented under 
the emblem of the marriage coveDant, ido* 

and the Destiny of Esau. 297 

latry was the violation of that engagement 
And this, I think, serves to explain the true 
meaning of the Jerusalem decree. The 
apostles require, Acts, xv. 20, that the con- 
verts from heathenism to Christianity should 
abstain from pollution of idols, from forni- 
cation, from things strangled, and from 
blood. Pollution from idols may perhaps 
mean direct idol worship; fornication, in 
this connexion, may denote any other act 
which was expressive of regard for the idol, 
such, for instance, as eating of things which 
had been offered to idols in an idol tem- 
ple. Esau, therefore, having been seduced 
to heathenish and idolatrous practices, is 
called a fornicator, one who violated the 
covenant under which he and his ances- 
tors were engaged to worship the one liv- 
ing and true God, and to worship him 

He is also called a profane person, that is, 
a person who was unworthy to be admitted 
into the society of the worshippers of the 
true God. The reason assigned for this 
character of him is, that for a single repast 

298 Reflectiom an the Character 

he sold his birthright. The account of this 
transaction is briefly related. Gen. xxv. 33. 
Esau came one day faint from the field, as 
Jacob was boiling some pottage, of which 
Esau requested to partake. Jacob, taking 
an ungenerous advantage of his brother's 
eagerness, demanded that he should first 
swear to him that he would sell him his 
birthright ; to which he, apprehending him- 
self at the point of death, unwarily consent- 
ed, and thus, as the historian remarks, he 
undervalued his birthright. 

What this birthright was, is not certainly- 
known. The unjust distinction of modem 
times, and of the feudal system, by which 
the elder son is entitled to a dispropor- 
tionate share of the paternal estate, was not 
then in existence. Nor had the patriarchs, 
who lived in tents, and whose possessions 
consisted chiefly in the number of their cat* 
tie, any large estates to bequeath. Some 
have thought that the priesthood was en- 
tailed upon the eldest son, and that Esau is 
condemned for slighting this honourable 
office. The most probable account seems 

and the Destiny of Esau. 899 

to be that which I have already hinted at 
The birthright which Esau despised was 
the entail of the promise. He must have 
known that it had been promised to Abra- 
ham, that in his seed all the nations of the 
earth should be blessed. He must have 
known that this promise had been entailed 
upon Isaac in preference to Ishmael — and 
Ignorant, as he probably was, that this entail 
had been cut off, in his instance, before his 
birth, and the descent of the promise settled 
upon the posterity of Jacob, by the express 
declaration of God to Rebecca, he must 
have believed that the promised blessing 
would have descended to him and to his 
posterity. This is the entail which, in the 
moment of eagerness and despondency, he 
undervalued and sold. He thought he 
must have died if his brother had not im- 
parted to him a share of that refreshment : 
his birthright therefore he regarded as use- 
less, and he parted with it irrevocably to 
save his life. 

Herein he acted incautiously and un- 
guardedly. He ought to have rested on 

300 Reflections on the Character 

the divine promise, and to have trusted his 
life to the care of Providence. If he had 
reflected for a moment, he could not have 
supposed that his brother, mean and over- 
reaching as he was, would have suffered 
him to die upon the spot sooner than afford 
him a little relief But he was thoughtless, 
precipitate, and. imperious. Hurried on 
by present feeling, without allowing him- 
self time for consideration, he fell into the 
snare of his selfish and artful brother. Hence 
it is that Esau is called profane. By his 
folly and precipitation he excluded himself 
from the society of the chosen people of 
God; from the blessings, privileges, and 
promises of the Abrahamic covenant. And 
his example is held up by the writer of the 
epistle to the Hebrews, as a warning to 
Christians not to think lightly of their pri- 
vileges, and not hastily to forego the pro- 
mises and hopes of the christian profession, 
for the sake of worldly gratification, or jof 
secular advantage. 

Esau had not yet come to the end of his 
troubles. The writer reminds the Hebrews, 

and the Destiny of Esau. 301 

that afterwards, when he would have inhe- 
rited the blessing, he was rejected, for he 
found no place for repentance, though he 
sought it carefully with tears. It may very 
easily be supposed that £sau, when he 
came to reflect upon his conduct, would 
soon and bitterly repent of the rash step 
which he had taken, by which he had cut 
off the entail of the promise firom himself 
and from his family, and that he would be 
anxious, if possible, to recover his birth- 
right. Isaac was grown old and feeble, his 
sight was decayed, and he apprehended 
that the time of his death was at hand. He 
called his favourite son, therefore, to his 
chamber, and ordered him to take some 
venison and dress it in a manner which was 
gratifying to his taste, that after he had en* 
joyed his meat he might pronounce on him 
a special blessing. Rebecca heard the di- 
rection, and while Esau was gone into the 
field to obey his father's order, she dressed 
some food in the manner which she knew 
was palatable to her husband, and disguis- 
ing the younger son Jacob, she sent him 

302 Ejections an the Character 

with it to his father, and he thereby surrep^ 
titiously obtained the blessing intended for 
his elder brother. '' Lo !" said his aged 
and deceived parent, ''the fragrance of my 
son's garment is the fragrance of a full 
grown field, which the Lord hath blessed ! 
So may God give thee of the dew of the 
heavens and of the fatness of the earth, 
abundance of corn, and of wine, and of oil ! 
To thee may peoples be subject, to thee 
may nations bend t Be thou lord over 
thine own brethren, and let the sons of thine 
own mother to thee bow down! If any 
one curses thee, may he be cursed, and 
whosoever blesses thee, may he be blessed T'* 
Soon after the impostor had gone out, 
his brother, the true Esau, entered. What 
passed upon that occasion between his fa^ 
ther and himself is related with so much 
simplicity and pathos by the historian, that 
I shall repeat it in his own words, and 
nearly in the version of the late learned Dr. 
Geddes, ver. 32 — 40. Isaac had but just 
made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob 
* Gen. xxvii. 87. Dr. Geddea's translatioD. 

and tilt Destiny of Esau. 303 

was hardly gone out from the presence of 
his father Isaac^ when his brother Esau 
came in from his bunting. And he said to 
his father, '' Let my father rise and eat of 
his son's venison, to the end that thy soul 
may bless me/' *• But who art thou ?" re- 
plied his father Isaac. '' I am/' said he, 
*' thy son, thy first-born Esau/' " Who then, 
and where is he," said Isaac, in the greatest 
consternation, '' that already procured and 
brought me venison, of all which I have eat 
before thy coming ? for him have I blessed, 
and he shall be blessed/' 

'* When Esau heard these words of his fa- 
ther, he uttered a most loud and bitter cry, 
and said to his father. Bless me, even me 
also, O my father/' Isaac answered, ''Thy 
brother came deceitfully and got thy bless- 
ing/' '' Justly," said Esau, '' was his name 
called Jacob (supplanter), for twice has he 
supplanted me« Formerly he got my birth- 
right, and, lo ! now he has gotten my bless- 
ing. But still," said he, ''hast thou not 
reserved a blessing for me?" Isaac an- 
swered and said to Esau, '' Lo ! him have 

304 Reflections on the Character 

I constituted thy lord, and to him all his 
brethren I have made subordinate. Com, 
and wine, and oil I have given for his sup- 
port : and now, my son, what can I do for 
thee ?" Again Esau said to his father, '* Hast 
thou only that one blessing to give, my fa- 
ther ? Bless me, even me also, O my fa- 

Here Esau wept aloud ; when his father 
Isaac, penetrated with sorrow, answered 
and said unto him, '' Lo ! remote from the 
fatness of the earth and the dew of the hea- 
vens from above must thy residence be. 
On thy desert thou shalt live, and to thy 
brother thou shait be subordinate ; but the 
time will come, when thou shalt prevail 
and break his yoke from off thy neck." As 
though he had said, " The fertile land of 
Canaan is allotted to Jacob, thou must be 
content with mount Seir, bleak and barren 
as it is ; and the only consolation lean give 
thee is, that in some future period thou, or 
thy posterity, shalt assert thine indepen- 
dence and shake off thy brother's yoke.*' 
Thus it is that Esau, when he would have 

and Destiny of Esau. 305 

inherited the blessing was rejected, and 
could by no means whatever prevail upon 
his father to change his mind and to re- 
voke the blessing, which had been so frau- 
dulently obtained, though he sought it ear- 
nestly, even with tears. 

Esau and Jacob were the twin sons of 
Isaac and Rebecca. • Esau is called a for- 
nicator because he married the daughter 
of an idolater, and was probably seduced 
by her into idolatrous practices. He is 
also said to be profane, . because, believing 
himself at the point of death, he sold his 
birthright, that is, bis title as the first born 
to the inheritance, of the promise which 
God had made to Abraham and Isaac, for 
a mess of pottage. 

He would afterwards have inherited the 
blessing ; and to this end he went out to 
hunt at the desire of his father Isaac, to 
prepare venison for him, and to obtain his 
father's blessing. But before he could ac- 
complish his purpose, Jacob, at the in* 
stigation of Rebecca, disguised himself, 


306 Reflections on the Character 

brought in the venison, and surreptitiously 
secured it. When Esau returned, and the 
fraud was discovered, Esau importuned 
Isaac, if not to retract bis blessing of Ja- 
cob, at least to confer a blessing upon 
him. This Isaac refused; though Esau, 
with tears, and earnest entreaties, besought 
him to change his mind, and to restore 
that blessing to him which his brother bad 
so fraudulently obtained. But he wept and 
implored in vain. And his example is 
held up by the writer to the Hebrews, as 
a warning to those who are tempted to 
make light of their christian privileges, 
and to neglect the day of their visitation. 

Having stated these facts, I now pro- 
ceed to make some remarks upon this 

1. Observe the JideUty of the sacred 

The faults of distinguished persons are 
related by him with the same simplicity as 
their virtues, Isaac and Jacob are heroes 
of the story, yet their iaiUngs are not 
concealed. The fond and foolish partia- 

and Destiny of Msau. 307 

lity of Isaac and Rebecca to their favorite 
sons, the selfisbi ungenerous, over-reach- 
ing spirit of Jacob, his firaud and lies, are 
related with the same simplicity and im- 
partial attention to truth as the feith of 
Abraham, the wisdom of Solomon, and the 
resignation of Eli. There is no history 
that is written with a fairness and impar- 
tiality comparable to that of the Israelite 
nation and the Abrahamic family. Here 
men are represented as they exist in real 
life, with all their virtues and with all 
their crimes. The judgment of the his- 
torians may be sometimes erroneous, and 
they may sometimes commend when they 
ought severely to censure ; but their ve- 
racity and impartiality stand unimpeached. 
The history therefore speaks for itself, and 
carries its own credentials with it, beyond 
any other that ever was written. 

2. The fault of Esau by no means ex- 
tenuates the crimes of Jacob and Rebecca. 

Esau disobeyed his parents, and heaped 
affliction upon their grey hairs, by mar- 
rying into the family of a heathen and an 


308 Reflections on the Character 

idolater. He departed from the covenant of 
his God, probably by joining in idolatrous 
rites, and by indulging himself in their li- 
centious practices. It was hardly possible 
for him to enter into so close an alKance 
with bad and profligate persons, without 
being seduced, in some degree, into thdr 
follies and their crimes. He was head- 
strong and impetuous. Imagining, or pre- 
tending, that he was ready to expire with 
hunger and fatigue, he, ''in evil hour,*' 
parted with his birthright, and renounced 
his interest in the promises for the sake of 
a single repast. Hence he is justly called 
profane, and held up as a warning to those 
who are in danger of resigning their chris- 
tian privileges and hopes for secular and 
unworthy considerations. 

But all this is no excuse for the conduct 
of his unkind mother, and his base^ unge- 
nerous brother. Esau's conduct was bad, 
but that of Jacob was far worse. Nothing 
could betray a more selfish and contempt- 
ible spirit than Jacob s mean extortion of 
the privileges of the birthright from a bro- 

and Destiny of Esau. 309 

ther, whom he saw ready to perish with 
hunger. And as to the conduct of him- 
self and his mother in imposing upon the 
Ignorant and fond credulity of Isaac, it is 
a continued tissue of wilful and deliberate 
fraud and falsehood, and betrays, in both 
the parties concerned, a rooted depravity 
of heart. It is to be hoped, that both 
of them, upon reflection, repented of their 
misdeeds, for they had much greater need 
to shed tears of penitence and contrition 
upon the occasion, than the poor youth 
whom they had combined to defraud. 

3. Through the whole of this iniquitous 
scene the divine character is clear and with- 
out a clogd. 

Nothing could be more inconsistent with 
the wisdom and dignity of the divine ad- 
nistration, than that the blessings of the co- 
venant should have been made to depend 
upon the circumstances related in the his- 
tory of Esau. Nothing could be more ri- 
diculous and absurd than to expect, that 
the entail of a promise, in which the whole 
vrorld was materially interested, should 

310 R^Uctions an the Character 

depend on the fond partiality of a doting 
old man, the artful contrivance of an in- 
triguing woman, or the extortion, fraud, 
and falsehood of a selfish and dishonest 
boy. Had the circumstances of the nar- 
ration led to this conclusion, the history 
would indeed have been of very doubtful 
credit. But the contrary is most apparent. 
For wise reasons God had ordained the 
different destiny of the twin descendants 
of Isaac and Rebecca, previous to their 
birth, and had actually foretold to the in- 
quiring mother that the eider should serve 
the younger. This determination was 
made previous to any voluntary act upon 
the part of the children, and therefore 
quite independent on their moral charac- 
ter, upon any merit or demerit of their 
own. Such is the observation of the 
Apostle, Rom. ix. 11. '* The children being 
not yet born, neither having done any 
good or evil, that the purpose of God, ac- 
cording to election, might stand, not of 
works, but of him that calleth, it was said 
udto her, the elder shall serve the younger^ 

and Destiny of Esau. 511 

as it is written, Mai. i. 2, '' Jacob have I 
loved, but Elsau have 1 hated ;' that is, in 
the figurative language of. prophecy, I have 
chosen Jacob and his posterity to the pos- 
session of privileges, which will be denied 
to Esau and his posterity. 

Why this choice was actually made we 
are not informed, and it is vain to con- 
jecture. It is certain, that no injustice 
was done to the elder brother; for God 
has an undoubted right to dispose of his 
gifts as he pleases, and no creature has any 
claim upon him for more than he chuses 
to bestow. But as God is wise as well 
as good, and does nothing without a suffi- 
cient motive, it is certain, that he had some 
good reason for making this preference, 
though we are not acquainted with it, and 
cannot discover it. At any rate, it is per- 
fectly analogous to the general dispensa- 
tions of divine Providence, by which, with- 
out any apparent reason, important bless- 
idgs, both natural and. moral, are conferred 
Mpon one nation, family, or individual, 
which are denied to another ; and it should 

312 Reflections on the Character 

seem, intellectual and moral advantages 
are sometimes communicated to those, 
who, it is known, will not improve them ; 
while they are withheld from others who 
would have made a right use of them. So 
that human sagacity, baffled in its researches 
into the abyss of Providence, is constrained 
to adore what it cannot comprehend, and 
at the conclusion of its most laborious in- 
vestigation, it must join issue with the 
Apostle, "Oh the depth of the riches of 
the wisdom and of the knowledge of Crod! 
how unsearchable are his judgments, and 
his ways past finding out V Rom. xi. 33. 
4. The Scriptures of the Old Testament 
should be read by all, and especially by 
young persons, with great discrimination and 

• There are many persons who believe, 
but without sufficient reason, that the 
whole of the Old Testament Scriptures 
are inspired, and that all the persons who 
make a conspicuous figure in the Jewish 
history, especially if they were upon any 
occasion the medium of divme communis 

and Destiny of Esau. 313 

cations to mankind, were eminent, and 
even perfect examples of virtue. One is 
called *• the Father of the faithful ;" an- 
other is, "the man after God's own heart ;" 
this is the wisest of men ; that is the 
meekest ; and another is d^e most patient 
of mankind ; and in this way unreflecting 
persons are induced to believe, that every 
thing wliich such persons are reported to 
have said or done, is right, and worthy of 
imitation. Whereas, in fact, no conclusion 
can be more remote from truth ; and there 
is scarcely a character in the Old Testa- 
ment, however respectable, and even vene- 
rable in many respects, that is not debased 
by some glaring defect in yirtue, if not con- 
taminated by some notorious criitae. Jacob, 
when young, was guilty of fraud and false- 
hood ; Solomon was an idolater and disso- 
lute ; and David was an adulterer and a 

Young persons, in reading the Scrip- 
tures of the Old Testament, should be ap- 
prised that this fidelity and impartiality in 
the narrative adds much to the credibility 

314 Rejkctmu on the Character 

of the Old Testament, though it detracts 
greatly from the perfection of the character 
of the reputed saint Let them therefore 
read the history with caution, with judg- 
ment, and with discrimination. Let them 
regard it as in the main true and credible, 
and as containing many authentic ac- 
counts of divine communications. But 
do not let them suppose that the charac- 
ter of a prophet is universally impeccable, 
much less let them regard the emioent 
characters in the Jewish scriptures as mo- 
dels for their imitation. It requires a con- 
siderable exercise of charity, and great al- 
lowance to be made for the defect of the 
dispensation under which they lived, for 
the force of prejudice, and for the iiiflueiice 
of example, to believe, that som^ whose 
characters are highly extolled, were really 
good men ; and it should be remembered, 
that their excellences are often more po- 
litical than personal. David was '' a man 
after God's own heart," not because of bis 
private character, which was very problem 
matical, but because he exterminated idd- 

and Destiny of Esau. 315 

latry. And the wisdom of Solomoa was 
wholly philosophical and political. Per- 
sonally his conduct was the extreme of 

How widely diflPerent the character of 
the very best of those whose history is re- 
corded in the Old Testament from that 
of Jesus, as exhibited in the gospel. Here 
indeed we see the true model of perfection ; 
an example in every particular worthy of 
imitation. And how came the evangelists 
to describe such a character as this ? Was 
it their own invention ? — ^Their uncultivated 
minds were utterly incapable of forming 
so sublime a picture. But they had the 
great original before their eyes. They re- 
late what they saw, and what they heard, 
and what they felt, and therefore their tes- 
timony must be true, and the gospel doc- 
trine must be worthy of all acceptation. 

5. Regret is often unavailing to restore 
an offender to the privileges of innocence. 

Esau sold his birthright, and he soon 
discovered his error, and when he would 
have retracted the bargain, it was out of 

316 Reflections on the Character 

his power. The blessing once gone was 
gone for ever : and tears, and prayers, and 
exclamations, were in vain employed to 
recover it. Let us then learn caution in 
the concerns of life, and never engage in 
any undertaking of importance without 
due deliberation. A false step once taken, 
how soon soever it may be discovered, how 
earnest soever the desire and the labour to 
retract it, may be irrecoverable, and the 
consequence of it may embitter the whole 
of life. 

This caution applies with double force 
to the commission of crime and the con- 
traction of guilt. Regret, however bitter, 
repentance, however sincere, can never re- 
place the offender on the high ground of 
innocence on which he before stood. Mi- 
serable self-deceivers are they ^^ho yield 
to temptation, and fall into sin» in the fond 
expectation of recovering themselves by 
early repentance. They will soon learn 
their fatal error. They will find that re- 
pentance is no easy task, nor always either 
in their will or in their power. Much less 

and Destiny of Esau. 


will the deepest repentance avail to remove 
the bitter consequences of deliberate guilt. 
In vain will they look for their former 
peace of miudi conscious innocence, and 
pleasing hope. They may seek for it with 
tears, but they will seek in vain. " Let 
him then, who thinketh he standeth, take 
heed lest he fall." 




Gen« viii. 22. 

While the earth renudneth, seedrtime and haroest^ and 
cold and heat, and summer and zomterj and day and 
nighi, shall not cease. 

The extraordinary weather with which 
not only this metropoUs and its vicinity, 
but the whole^country, has been visited for 
some time past, cannot but suggest some 
useful reflections to a serious and attentive 

A fog of vast extent, of unusual density, 
and uncommon duration, has been suc- 
ceeded by a season of frost and snow, still 
more uncommon and universal; which has 
interposed a temporary obstruction to the 

Vicissitudes of the Seasons. 319 

usual communication with distant parts of 
the country, to inland navigation, to the 
pursuits of agriculture, to trade, manufac- 
tures, and commerce, to a degree and ex- 
tent unprecedented in the memory of any 
one now living. 

In the metropolis it is attended with ex- 
treme inconvenience and much danger; 
and it excites no inconsiderable degree of 
alarm. It has occasioned many distressing 
accidents, it has caused many severe falls, 
painful bruises, dislocated limbs, and bro- 
ken bones. It has rendered the supply of 
water, that article of prime necessity, in- 
convenient and precarious. It has ob- 
structed the regular supply of the market : 
it excites apprehension from the increased 
danger which would accrue in case of fire, 
from which hitherto the metropolis has been 
in a considerable degree mercifully pre- 
served ; and much apprehension exists with 
respect to the consequences of a sudden 
thaw, if that should happen to take place. 
In the mean time, the price of fuel is enor- 
mous, and rapidly advancing. And the 

320 Reflections upon the 

severity of the season is very prejudicial to 
the health of those who are exposed to its 
inclemency, and particularly to persons of 
feeble and delicate habits, or who are ad- 
vanced in life, and suffering under the infir- 
mities of age. And finally, while the ri- 
gour of the season is felt by persons of 
every condition in life, it presses with pecu- 
liar weight upon the poor, many of whom 
are thrown out of employment, whose 
wants and distresses are increased and in- 
creasing to an incalculable degree. 

1. This extraordinary state of the season 
leads us to reflect upon the wisdom and 
goodness of God in the original constittp- 
tion of nature^ and in the general steadiness 
of its course. 

The course of nature is the succession of 
phenomena in the external world. These 
are the result of the laws of nature, which 
are the wise appointment, and, as some of 
the greatest and best philosophers have be- 
lieved, the immediate energy of the divine 

The course of nature consists in the re- 

Vicisntudes of the Seasons. 32 1 

gular vicissitude of day and night ; in the 
constant succession of seed-time and har- 
vest, of summer and winter, of cold and 
heat ; the revolutions of which in the same 
climate, though not with minute exactness, 
are, to all practical purposes, nearly the 

In the Spring of the year, within these 
mild and temperate latitudes, the weather 
begins to soften, vegetation buds, the soil be- 
comes fit for cultivation and for receiving 
the seeds and roots of various useful and 
esculent vegetables, and particularly of va- 
rious kinds of grain, which is the main sup- 
port of human life, — In the Summer the 
days grow long, warmth increases, refresh- 
ing showers descend to water and fructify 
the earth, and the course of nature tends 
to accelerate the progress of vegetation in 
the gardens and in the fields. While the 
length and brightness of the day exhilarates 
the spirits of the labourer, supplies him 
with vigour, and affords him opportunity 
to go through that additional toil which 


322 Reflections upon the 

the increased occupations of the garden 
and the field impose upon him. 

In the Autumn the harvest ripens, the 
weather becomes settled, and suitable for 
gathering in the corn, and for collecting 
those precious fruits and productions of the 
fertile, well-cultivated, and grateful earth, 
which constitute the rich, the needful, and 
the beautifully diversified provision for man 
and beast for the ensuing year. It is com- 
monly a season of universal gladness: and 
that man must be a total stranger to the most 
refined emotions, the most exalted sensibi- 
lities of the soul, who is insensible to the 
joy of harvest, and^ whose heart is not 
touched with gratitude to the bounteous 
Giver of the universal feast 

In the Winter, when the days are short* 
the nights long and dark, and the season 
cold and inclement, vegetation is quiescent 
The external labours of agriculture and 
horticulture are almost suspended. The 
ground is made impenetrable by the firost 
The waters are congealed ; and the surface 

Viciissitude$ of the Seasons. 323 

of the earth is often covered with snow. 
Yet this state of things is far from being 
without its use. The vesture of snow pro- 
tects the roots of vegetables from being 
chilled by frost, and the congelation of the 
surface of the ground enables the tiller of 
the glebe to carry out and to spread the 
manure which is necessary to fertilize the 
soil, and to qualify it for nourishing the 
seed, and causing it to germinate and spring 
for the future harvest. 

Such is the general revolution of the 
seasons ; and though nothing can be more 
uncertain than the weather, and it never 
happens that two years in succession are 
exactly alike, yet the similarity is so great, 
and the range of vicissitude is so contract- 
ed, that the earth seldom fails, sometimes a 
week or two earlier, and sometimes later, 
to yield the expected produce ; now indeed 
more abundantly in one form, and now in 
another, yet, upon the whole, sufficient to 
supply sustenance both for man and beast. 

All this is the work of God ; the benign 
result of his governing providence. He is 

Y 2 

324 Reflections upon tlie 

Sovereign and Lord of nature. It was He 
who fixed the laws of the universe. It 
is He that carries them into effect. It is 
He that hringeth forth Mazzaroth in his sea- 
son ; that guideth Arcturtis, with his sons; that 
directeth the sweet influences of the Pleiades, 
and looseth the hands of Orion. He appointeth 
the moon for seasons, and the sun knozs>eth the 
time of his rising and his going dowfi. It 
was the wisdom of God which so arranged 
the magnitudes, the distances, the situa- 
tion and revolutions of the heavenly bodies, 
as to produce those effects which he saw 
would be most beneficial to the animal and 
rational inhabitants of the worlds he form- 
ed. It is true that the course of nature is 
regulated by certain invariable laws, and 
that not a drop of rain, nor a flake of snow 
falls but in its proper time and place. And 
these laws are the result of infinite wisdom 
and benevolence, ordering every thing for 
good. To deny this, would be to contra- 
dict the plainest dictates of the understand* 
ing. To argue from the regularity of the 
phenomena of nature, that they have no 

Vicissitudes of the Seasons. 325 

intelligent cause, would be to infer the 
want of intelligence from a fact which h 
itself the most satisfactory proof of con- 
summate intelligence, than which nothing 
could be more absurd. 

The wisdom and goodness of the Crea- 
tor in establishing the regular vicissitude of 
the seasons may be further illustrated by 
the following considerations. If this regu- 
larity did not generally prevail, if it were 
uncertain whether the approaching month 
would bring with it the frosts and snows of 
winter, or the scorching heats of summer, 
human prudence would be of no avail, wis- 
dom would not be acquired by experience. 
It would be impossible to make provision 
for future contingencies. The majority of 
the human race must perish for want of 
the necessaries of life. And the survivors 
must live in misery, like untutored savages, 
or the wild beasts of the forest. But now, 
as the course of nature is steady and uni- 
form, as the returning seasons bring their 
own conveniences and inconveniences with 
them, which the sagacity of man foresees. 

326 Reflections upon the 

hi3 prudence provides accordingly, and 
man grows wiser by experience. In due 
time he secures a shady retreat from the 
scorching beams of the summer's sun, and 
a comfortable habitation to shelter him 
from the frosts and snows of winter. By 
experience he learns to cultivate the soil, 
and to improve the fertility of the earth, so 
as not only to supply his daily wants, but 
to lay up a store of provision for the season 
when the face of the earth presents only 
the appearance of a desolate waste. And 
the experience of one generation is thus 
transmitted for the benefit of another: 
which, successively improving upon the 
practice of their forefathers, the state of 
mankind in civilized countries, where pro- 
perty is protected and the arts encouraged, 
is in a continual progress of amelioration 
from generation to generation, to an inde- 
finite degree. 

It is likewise an instance of the great 
wisdom and goodness of divine Provi- 
dence, that the seasons, though upon the 
whole regular, are nevertheless to a const- 

Vicissitudes of the Seasons. 327 

derable degree diversified. Sometimes the 
changes in the weather are so exactly suited 
to the produce of the soil that every thing 
prospers, and crops of all kinds are most 
abundant, most excellent, and well gather- 
ed in. At other times the seasons are un- 
kindly. At one time a long continued 
drought and scorching heat burn up the 
produce of the soil, and in the midst of 
summer deface the country with the dreary 
aspect of winter. At another time inces- 
sant rains, or unseasonable frosts, chill the 
ground, and nip vegetation in the bud ; or 
blights and tempests occasionally destroy 
it, just when it has become fit for the 
sickle or the scythe, and disappoint the 
hope of the husbandman, at the moment 
when the object of his wishes and la- 
bours appears to be within his grasp. Ne- 
vertlieless, these varieties, how considerable 
or frequent soever, take place within cer- 
tain limits, and though they often do great 
mischief, and disappoint the expectations 
of the agriculturist, they are neither so fre- 
quent nor so extreme as to baffle calcula- 

328 Reflectiomupon the 

tion, and to invalidate experience. On the 
contrary, they excite the ingenuity and in- 
dustry of man to provide against contin- 
gencies of this nature, either by varying 
his crops, so that the weather, which is de- 
structive to one may be salutary to another, 
or by providing other contrivances to coun- 
terbalance, or at least to qualify the exist- 
ing inconvenience. So that upon the whole 
the intemperature of the seasons is never 
so great as entirely to baffle the expecta- 
tions of the husbandman. He ploughs in 
hope, and sows in hope, and, by the bles- 
sing of divine Providence, he usually be- 
comes partaker of his hope. 

And to say the truth, how much better 
is the state of man in consequence of this 
beautiful variety of the course of nature, 
which, though it is sufficiently regular to 
encourage hope, is also sufficiently diversi- 
fied to alarm apprehension, to whet his fa- 
culties, and to rouse him to industry and 
activity ! How much wiser and happier is 
he, how much more exalted in the sphere 
of intellectual and of moral excellence, 

Vidssititdes of the Seasons. 329 

than if the earth had produced spontane- 
ously every thing which is necessary to the 
comfort and convenience of life, so that the 
indolent inhabitant would have had nothing 
more to do than to put forth his hand and 
take what was ready prepacpd for his use ! 
How much sweeter is the food that is earned 
by labour, how much more gratifying the 
comforts which are the produce of ingenuity 
and industry, than those which are inherit- 
ed without any pains or forethought, even 
though these should be far more consider- 
able ! In truth, the only man who is com- 
pletely miserable is he who has nothing to 
do, and upon whom time hangs as an in- 
supportable burden. And how mild, how 
beneficent the sentence pronounced upon 
fallen man, '' In the sweat of thy face shalt 
thou eat bread !" 

II. How much is the wisdom and good- 
ness of divine Providence illustrated in 
adapting the constitution and the inclinations 
of mankind to the conveniences and incon- 
veniences of their local habitations, and in 
reconciling them to their lot. 

330 Rejlectiom upon the 

In different latitudes the nature of the 
climate is widely different. Those regions 
which lie near the equator are scorched 
with insufferable and unremitting heat, or 
annoyed with deluges of rain and tremen- 
dous hurricanes. While those which ap- 
proximate to the pole are bound up with 
perpetual frost, and are exposed to a long 
and cheerless night of weeks', and even 
months' duration, without a glimpse of the 
solar ray. The sea is covered with islands 
of ice, and the surface of the land, for the 
greater part of the year, with snow, which 
during a few weeks in the summer gives 
way to a scanty produce, in which few or 
none of the vegetables which are adapt- 
ed to the sustenance of human life can be 
brought to maturity. 

An inhabitant of the temperate zone, if 
suddenly transported to either of these ex- 
treme regions, and there left to himself, 
must inevitably perish. His constitution 
would not be able to endure the extreme 
either of heat or cold to which it would be 
exposed . And being ignorant of the course 

Vicissitudes of the Seasons. 331 

of nature in a climate to which he had not 
been accustomed, he would be utterly un- 
able to provide either the sustenance, or 
the clothing, or the habitation which the 
change of climate would render necessary ; 
nor would he have any means of guarding 
against the insalubrity of the air, or the 
noxious and venomous animals which might 
be natives of the soil. Of the truth of this 
supposition we have ample proof in the great 
mortality which uniformly attends the set- 
tlement of colonies in newly discovered 
countries. And, if we may give credit to 
history, whole armies have, in consequence 
of ignorance and inexperience, been at once 
suffocated by parching winds, or swallow- 
ed up in the sands of a burning desert. 

fiut the most remarkable fact, the most 
memorable event which history records of 
the dreadful effect of a rigorous climate 
upon those who are exposed to it, and un- 
prepared for it ; an example which will be 
recollected with horror as long as the page 
of history shall remain ; is one that has hap- 
pened in our own time, and which involved 

332 Reflections upon the 

in it the fates of the whole civilized world : 
1 mean, the destruction of an army the 
most numerous, the best appointed, the best 
disciplined, and the most formidable, which, 
perhaps, was ever assembled in any place, 
or upon any occasion, and the melancholy 
catastrophe of which, through the unknown 
and unexpected inclemency of the climate^ 
was so complete, that with the exception of 
a few of the principal officers, and a small 
portion of troops, hardly any escaped alive, 
and unhurt, to relate the disastrous tale.^ 

Yet, such is the admirable contrivance 
of divine wisdom and benevolence in the 
structure of human nature, that the natives 
of these torrid, or frozen climates, which 
are so uncomfortable and so formidable to 
strangers, are not only reconciled to a re- 
sidence in them, but even greatly prefer 
them to all others, and imagine themselves 
to be the most favoured of nations. Their 
constitutions are so formed, or by their 
habits of living they are so trained and dis- 

* See Lebaume's Account of Boni^parte's Retreat 
from Moscow. 

Vicissitudes of the Seasons. 353 

ciplined, as to endure without inconve- 
nience the respective extremes of heat or 
cold. They possess the health and vigour 
which their situations require, and some of 
them live to extreme old age. Being ex- 
perienced in the vicissitudes of their respec- 
tive climates, they know how to provide 
both food, and clothing, and habitations, 
adapted to the exigencies of their situation : 
and enjoying what are, in their estimation, 
the comforts and luxuries of life, they rather 
pity than envy the polished European, and 
covet not, either the conveniences of his 
abode, the variety and ornaments of his 
dress, or the delicacies of his table. 

When we look abroad into the country 
in this inclement season, we are shocked to 
see the fields covered with snow, and the 
roads, the rivers, and canals, so blocked up 
as greatly to impede, if not absolutely to 
suspend, the intercourse of society, the la- 
bours of agriculture, the action of machi- 
nery, and the operations of commerce ; we 
regard the duration of it as a signal ca- 
lamity, such as hath not occurred within 

334 Ructions upon the . 

the recollection of any one now living. 
And this naturally excites our compassion 
for the wretched inhabitants of the frozen 
zone, who at this season of the year are ex- 
cluded from the light of the sun, who bury 
themselves in holes and caves, like wild 
beasts, whose mutual intercourse is sus- 
pended for weeks and months, who reside 
in the midst of perpetual snows, whose mi- 
serable soil produces not a single article of 
sustenance, who have no means of subsis- 
tence but what they derive from their skill 
in fishing, and who have no wood for fuel, 
or materials for building, but what the ocean 
drives upon their coast. It is impossible to 
conceive of human nature as existing in 
what appears to us a more comfortless state, 
and in such a state, existence scarcely ap* 
pears to be desirable. Yet such is the wis* 
dom and benignity of divine Providence, 
in adapting the constitution and the pli- 
ancy of human nature to its existing cir^ 
cumstances, that these poor and miserable 
beings, as we are apt to think and to call 
them, are perfectly satisfied with their loti 

Vicissitudes of the Seasons. 335 

and neither covet nor envy the conve- 
niences and comforts of the civilized and 
opulent European. If they are successful 
in their fisheries, and escape from accident, 
they are as happy as they can conceive, 
and they ask for no amelioration of their 
condition. The experiment has been tried 
more than once, and it has been uniformly 
found, that when any of these innocent sa- 
vages have been brought to Europe, and 
supplied with the necessaries and comforts 
of civilized life, they have constantly pined 
after the frosts and snows of their native 
home, and have embraced with eagerness 
the earliest opportunity of returning to the 
land of their forefathers, and to the society, 
the occupations, and the habits of life to 
which they had been trained from infancy. 
Such is the impartial goodness of the Uni- 
versal Parent, in providing for his human 
ofispring. According to the present system 
of nature, it was impossible that all should 
enjoy the same beauty and salubrity of cli- 
mate : but He has abundantly compensated 
the defect, by giving th^t pliancy to the 

336 Reflections upon the 

human frame which shall adapt itself to 
every climate, and make every one believe 
that his own allotment is the best O that 
men would praise the Lord for his good- 
ness, and for his wonderful works to the 
children of men ! 

III. How zs;ide the extent, and yet how 
limited the boundaries of human know- 
ledge ! 

When we consider that the intellect of 
man is equal to the discovery of the »tua- 
tion, the distance, and the magnitude of 
the various spheres which compose the so- 
lar system, and of estimating their courses 
with mathematical precision ; that he is ca- 
pable of calculating to an instant, the various 
eclipses of the sun and moon, and of the 
satellites of the planets, not only those which 
have lately happened, or will soon occur, 
but of tbose which took place ten thousand 
years ago, or which will happen for ten thou- 
sand years to come, supposing the continued 
existence of the planets and their secondaries 
— ^when we call to mind that astronomy has 
discovered the existence of stars, the light of 

Piciisittides of the Seasons. 337 

which has been thousands of years in travel- 
ling to the earth — ^and that it even essays to 
form some faint idea of the structure of the 
magnificent and stupendous universe, one is 
ready to conclude that nothing which is the 
object of knowledge can be incomprehen- 
sible to a being possessed of such a mighty 
grasp of intellect And yet we need not go 
far, before we find a subject, and that a very 
common one, which brings the greatest phi- 
losopher to a stand, and which baffles his 
utmost penetration, and that is, the changes 
of the weather. No one can foretel to- 
day, with precision, what the weather will 
be to-morrow : much less for a week, or a 
month, or a year to come^ And weak and 
ignorant indeed must that individual be, 
who can place any confidence in meteoro- 
logical predictions. Such is the large ex- 
tent in one direction, and the narrow limi- 
tation in another, of the human intellect, 
and such the impressive lesson which true 
philosophy reads to human vanity. It is 
indeed, impossible that a true philosopher 
should be vain. Not, indeed, but that 
VOL. II. z 

33S Reflections upon the 

the course of the winds and vapours is re- 
gulated by laws as fixed and invariable as 
those by which the planets move in their 
orbits ; and if our faculties were equal to 
the discovery, we should see that every 
gust of wind, and every drop of rain, are 
subject to calculations as rigid as the return 
of an eclipse. But the cases are too minute 
or too remote, for the cognizance of the 
senses, and we can no more account for 
them, in common cases, than if they hap- 
pened by chance. 

And this circumstance has induced some 
persons, whose piety was greater than 
their judgment, to conclude, because these 
changes baffle all human calculation, that 
the courses of the winds are not subject to 
general laws, but that the Regent of the 
Universe has reserved the direction of the 
winds to his own immediate and arbitrary 
control : so that not a gust of wind, nor a 
breath of air, stirs without a miracle. But 
in this supposition there is more of piety 
than of philosophy and good sense. The 
currents of the atmosphere are not of more 

Vidnitudes of the Seasons, 339 

importance than those of the ocean, yet 
every one believes the latter to be the re- 
sult of general laws, and why not the 
former ? All things are of God, and we 
cannot be too much impressed with the 
idea, that every thing which happens is the 
result of divine appointment, and even the 
operation of divine agency. But we are 
not to measure infinite wisdom by the nar^ 
row intellect of man. The wisest of the 
human race, from the want of foresight, are 
often obliged to change plans which had 
been formed with the most cautious delibe- 
ration, and to deviate from the most ap- 
proved and established rules of conduct : 
but with the Father of Lights there is no 
variableness, neither shadow of turning: 
nor is there any appearance fi-om which we 
can conclude, with the exception of the 
miracles recorded in the Jewish and the 
Christian scriptures, that it has ever been 
found necessary, or expedient, upon any 
occasion, for the Governor of the Universe 
to deviate from the laws, and to change the 
course of nature, which have been contrived 
z 2 

340 Rejlectiom upon the 

by infinite wisdom, to accomplish the pur- 
poses of infinite benevolence. 

IV. Let us all zealously perform the du- 
ties which are imposed upon us by the exi- 
gencies of the season. 

While we acknowledge the hand of God 
in the present remarkable visitation of bis 
providence, and wait with humble submis- 
sion for the appointed issue, let us be active 
in discharging the duties which are now 
especially incumbent. And the obvious 
duty of the present season is, the relief of 
the poor, who suffer grievously under its 
uncommon pressure. The indigent have 
now an especial claim upon the humanity 
of the afiluent. And having been deprived 
by the immediate visitation of divine Pro- 
vidence, of the usual means of support, they 
are, as it were, cast by Providence upon 
the beneficence of those who are able to 
administer to their relief It is much to 
the credit of the humanity and benevolence 
of this great metropolis, that unusual exer- 
tions have been, and continue to be made, 
for that purpose : and it will assuredly be 

Vicissitudes of the Seasons. 34 1 

found, that the liberal and kind-hearted 
will not be losers in the end. For he that 
hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the 
Lord, and that which he hath given, hb 
will pay him again. 



ATark, xii. 3S. 
There is one God, and there is none oiher but He, 

This is a proposition to which every Chris- 
tian is ready to give a verbal assent, and to 
the importance of which no one will hesi- 
tate to subscribe. But when I consider the 
abstruse nature, and the refined texture of 
the argument by which this doctrine is sup- 
ported ; the number, and the plausibility of 
the objections by which it is opposed ; the 
prevalence of polytheism and idolatry in all 
ages and countries, and the number, I may 
say the myriads, of those who, while they 
acknowledge the divine unity in words, 
contradict this doctrine in their creeds, and 
offer equal homage to more than One di- 
vine person, 1 cannot assent to the judg- 

The Unity of God asserted, ^c. 343 

ment of those who maintain that the unity 
OF 6oD is a kind of natural notion, or self- 
evident principle, which must be admitted 
by every person of common understanding 
who pays the least attention to the subject 
On the contrary, the speculative difficulty, 
and the great practical importance of the 
doctrine, appear to me to be so considerable 
as to rein4er a divine interposition, to reveal 
and to confirrn this sacred truth, as in the 
c^e of the doctrine of a future life, in the 
highest degree expedient, and worthy of 
the compassion of the Universal Parent to- 
wards his frail and erring human offspring. 

It is my present design to produce what 
appear to me the most plausible and satis- 
factory arguments in favour of the unity of 
God — to state and reply to the principal 
objections agaipst it — to illustrate the im- 
portance of the doctrine— ^nd to suggest 
sojsie useful inferences from the subject. 

I. Of the arguments which are alleged in 
support of the unity of God, the 

\. First is that which i^ deriyed from ne- 
cessary EXISTENCE. 

344 The Unity of God 

A self-existent being exists not in conse- 
quence of the will and power of another, 
but from a natural necessity of being, from 
an impossibility of non-existence. Neces- 
sity cannot, indeed, with propriety be called 
the cause of its existence, it is rather the 
reason why it exists. But necessity is abso- 
lute, simple, uniform. There cannot be t^o 
absolute necessities, and therefore there can- 
not be two necessarily existent beings. It 
is, therefore, as impossible that there should 
be two infinite beings, as that there should 
be two infinite spaces. 

This is an argument to which I am dis- 
posed to allow great weight. I have no 
doubt, that if we could perfectly compre- 
hend the divine nature, we should see that 
there is a natural impossibility that God 
should not exist, or that he should exist 
otherwise than he does, or be any thing but 
what he is — that he is the necessary subject 
of all possible perfections, and that the ex- 
istence of two such beings would be a con- 
tradiction. But though all these specula- 
tions appear to me very probable, and 

asserted and proved. 345 

though I cannot withhold my assent from 
them^ I must, at the same time, confess 
that they are beyond the comprehension of 
the human intellect. We know not our- 
selves. Our limited understanding falters, 
when it attempts to comprehend the nature 
and the mode of our own derived, preca- 
rious, shadowy existence. How, then, can 
it grasp the nature and attributes of an infi- 
nite being ? 

2. The second argument which I shall 
mention, is, indeed, an argument of consi- 
derable refinement, but when it is maturely 
examined, it will, I think, appear not desti- 
tute of weight ; and it is more within the 
limits of human comprehension than that 
which has been already stated. It is this. 
Two or more infinite beings would per- 
fectly COINCIDE with each other, and to 
our apprehension would become one and 
THE SAME BEING. We may, indeed, image 
two finite beings as exactly equal, and in 
every respect similar, without being nume- 
rically one. Two men may have the same 
age, the same stature, the same countenance. 

346 The Unity of God 

the same capacity, the same thoughts, the 
saoie will, the same affections ajad habits, 
they may be supposed to utter the sagie 
words, and to perform the same actions — ^yet 
if they should occupy different portions of 
space, if they were separate from each other, 
and existed in different placesi, they would 
never be, nor be conceived to bet, the same 
person. But could it for one moment be 
imagined, that the two individuals occupied 
the same space, the numerical divenity 
would be instantly lost, and the two persons 
would be, and would be conceived to |bi$, 
numerically one. And this coi^cliji^oo 
would hold far more forcibly with respect 
to the existence of two infinite beings. These 
beings would both be seli-existent, pmnipo- 
tent, omniscient, and immutable: (h^y i]»M4t 
both be perfectly powerful, perfectly wisiS| 
and perfectly good : they must both ha¥e 
the same views, the same will» the sane 
purpose; and must both exert the sane 
energy, at the same time, in the same wafr* 
One x^ould not have a thought distinct fimn 
the other, or perform a different action ; for 

asserted and placed. 347 

each would always will and do that which, 
at the same iostaot, in the same circum- 
stances^ would be the best. Both would 
occupy infinite space, and infinite time, 
and neither could withdraw himself froQ» 
any portion of space, or any point of dura- 
tion, so that the two ideas would completely 
coalesce into one : and the existence of two 
infinite beings cannot even be conceived as 

This is an argument for the unity of God 
which, though not obvious, appears to be 
both intelligible and conclusive, and to re- 
flect great honour upon those learned and 
pious men by whom it was proposed and 

3. To admit the existence of more Gods 
than One is UNNECESSARYt and contradic- 
tory to the established principles of philoso- 
phical reasoning. 

Two principles are assumed in philoso- 
phy as the basis of all sound reasoning, the 
premises from which alone legitimate con- 
clusicms can be drawn, viz. That every ef- 

^ Lodie, WeHastoB, mud others. 

348 TheUrdtyofGod 

feet must have an adequate cause, and that 
causes are not to be multiplied without ne- 
cessity : in other words, that no more causes 
are to be admitted than what are necessary 
to account for existing phenomena. Of the 
existence of one God we possess evidence 
the most satisfactory and convincing. For 
without the intervention of an original, in- 
telligent, powerful, and benevolent Cause, 
we cannot account for the phenomena of 
the intellectual and moral world : without 
the existence of such a being, nothing could 
begin to be, and no change could take 
place in the appearances and circumstances 
of beings actually existing. It is, therefore, 
highly reasonable to believe that one Gfod 
exists, and they who deny this fundamen- 
tal truth shut their eyes against the clearest 
light, and fall into the most palpable ab- 

But of the existence of more gods than 
ONE, we have not the slightest evidence. 
For there is not a single phenomenon in 
the universe, not a single event which takes 
place in the remotest regions of space, not a 

asserted and proved. 349 

ingle individual which begins to exist, whose 
being, powers, and operations, may not be 
as easily accounted for upon the hypothe- 
sis of one original, intelligent, and omnipo- 
tent Cause, as upon that of a thousand 
Gods. He, therefore, who believes in the 
existence of one God, is justified in his be- 
lief by the most clear and satisfactory evi- 
dence ; for the existence of such a being is 
necessary to the existence of all other be- 
ings. But to believe in a plurality of Gods, 
is to believe a proposition totally destitute 
of all evidence. As one self-existent, intel- 
ligent, omnipotent being, is perfectly com- 
petent to the production of all things that 

This argument, if it does not absolutely 
prove that there is but one God, proves, at 
least, that there is no reason to believe the 
existence of a plurality of Gods. 

4. That argument for the divine unity 
which is commonly regarded as the most 
obvious and satisfactory, is derived from 
the UNITY OF DESIGN in the structure of the 

350 TheUnityofGod 

It seems highly improbable that two or 
more equals independent, original beings, 
each of whom is competent to the formation 
and support of a universe, should unite io 
forming the same system, and in carrying on 
the same plan, so that the creatures of one 
should be dependent upon those of the other. 
But the plan of the universe, as far as it falls 
under our observation, is uniform. The 
solar system is a regular and harmonious 
structure, in which the planetary orbs per- 
form their appointed revolutions upon their 
respective axes, and tnove round the sun in 
periods mathematically correct; and the 
secondaries, by the same law, revolve around 
their primaries, and with them in their an- 
nual orbits about the sun, with strict ma- 
thematical precision. And, as the design 
of these motions in the planet which we in- 
habit, is to accommodate the inhabitants in 
their respective climates, with light and 
heat, there is every reason to believe that 
the final cause is the same with regard to 
every other planet in the same system. And 
there are not wanting argunoients to prove 

asserted and proved. 351 

that the system itself is connected with other 
systems, and clusters of systems of suns and 
worlds, so that the immense universe forms 
one grand and stupendous whole. 

Also, in the world in which we dwell, 
which is the only one in the structure of 
which we are materially concerned, or of 
which we have any knowledge, we see a 
beautiful co-operation of means tending to 
the same important end, the happiness of 
the creatures of God. 

The inanimate and vegetable productions 
of the globe, as well as the materials of 
which it is composed, and its convenient 
divisions into land and water, are all sub- 
servient to the accommodation of the ani- 
mal and rational inhabitants : and the ani- 
mal creation are clearly intended to supply 
food and clothing for man, as well as to 
labour for his use : while the interest, as well 
as the duty of man, leads him to feed, pro- 
tect, and shelter the animals he employs. 
In a word, all things are essentially con- 
nected with all, and there is not in the cre- 
ated universe, as far as our observation ex- 

352 TheUnityofGod 

tends, an insulated, detached, unconnected 
being. And, as far as we can judge, the 
tendency of the whole system, and of each 
of its parts, is to promote moral discipline 
and improvement, and to accomplish ulti- 
mate universal virtue and happiness. 

Now, if the design is one, and if all the 
works of nature, whether animate or inani- 
mate, animal or rational, contribute in their 
respective stations to the accomplishment 
of that one design, how reasonable is it to 
conclude, that the Great Artificer of all is 
ONE being, and that it is one and the same 
God whose wisdom and goodness prompted 
and contrived the magnificent plan, and 
whose omnipotence is continually employed 
in carrying it into effect. 

It is true, that this argument from unity 
of design does not absolutely demonstrate 
the unity of God, because it is possible that 
two or more intelligent and active beings 
may combine in the production and direc- 
tion of the same system. But the presump- 
tion from analogy is, that of one greats 
Architect, one presiding Intelligence, ONE 

asserted and proved. 353 

governing Will, one energetic Power. If 
we behold a vast and magnificent edifice, 
the several parts of which are constructed 
in. exact proportion to each other, and all 
together contribute with the most perfect 
symmetry to constitute one uniform and 
splendid whole, we naturally conclude that 
this admired effect is the product of one en- 
lightened and energetic mind : and by 
parity of reason we conclude, till evidence 
be shewn to the contrary, that the Author 
of the immense, and beautiful, and harmo- 
nious structure of the universe is one infi- 
nite, all-comprehending Mind. 

If it should be objected, that there may 
be other systems of being, which may be 
the productions of other gods ; it may be 
answered, that such a supposition is gra- 
tuitous and inadmissible, and that, at any 
rate, we know nothing, and can affirm no- 
thing, of any system but that to which we 
ourselves belong, and can owe no religious 
duties to any being but to the Lord our 
Maker, who is the only original being with 
whom we have to do. But the supposition 

VOL. II. 2 A 

354 TheUmtyofGod 

of another God is wholly unsupported, and 
ought not to be made. For if we know, 
and can reason upon the subject, two infi- 
nite beings are as impossible as two infinite 
spaces : and, as I have already proved, 
they must necessarily coalesce into one 
another, and become one and the same 

It has been urged that our observation 
is too limited to justify the conclusion that 
unity of design pervades the whole created 
universe. But we can only reason fix)m 
what we know. And as far as our sphere 
of observation extends, we see a unity of 
design pervading the works of nature, and 
the more we penetrate into the immense 
regions of the universe, the more we disco- 
ver that all its parts are subject to the same 
general laws, and that all the several parts 
are connected together, and combine to 
form one great and magnificent whole : in 
which we have reason to believe that all 
the parts are so linked together, that no al- 
teration could take place, even in the re- 
motest star, which would not be felt as a 

asserted and proved. 355 

serious injury to this world and its inhabi- 
tants. The more we know of the works of 
nature, the more we see of the relations of 
the various parts to the one great and mag- 
nificent whole, and of the tendencies of 
things to wise and beneficent ends. Many- 
phenomena which were formerly deemed 
defects, have, in consequence of modern 
discoveries, been proved to be useful to the 
general system ; and from what we know, 
it is fair to argue by analogy to what is un- 
known, and there is no fact which can be 
proved to contradict this analogy. 

But the objection assumes a still bolder 
form. We are told that the mixture of 
evil with good contradicts the assumption 
of unity of design. The constitution of the 
natural world is, say some, apparently be- 
nevolent ; but that of the moral world is 
malignant and mischievous. If, then, we 
argue from the apparent design, we should 
conclude that twa beings are concerned in 
the formation of the universe : the one 
good, the other evil. 

This objection would indeed be insur- 
3 A 2 

356 The Unity of God 

mountable could it be proved, which it 
never can, that any of the laws and pheno- 
mena of the universe are intrinsically and 
purely evil, and without any beneficial ten- 
dency. But it is plain, to an attentive ob- 
server, that good, both natural and moral, 
greatly preponderates over evil. Also, that 
all evil, moral as well as natural, tends di- 
rectly or indirectly to the production of 
good, and that of a sublime and exalted 
nature, which good could not have existed 
without the antecedent evil. Further, that 
evil, having answered the purpose of its in- 
troduction, tends to exterminate itself: and 
finally, that it never can be proved that an 
equal quantity of good could possibly have 
been produced without the mixture of evil : 
and from the wisdom of God, considered 
in connexion with the power and goodaess 
which, from the most superficial survey of 
his works we cannot but ascribe to hiau 
we may reasonably conclude it to have 
been impossible: unless any one would 
presume to assert that God chose evil for 
its own sake. So that we may roasoDably 

asserted and proved. 357 

conclude, at least for any thing that can be 
proved to the contrary, that all the evil 
which exists in the universe may be sub- 
servient to the perfection of the general 
system, and even necessary to the produc- 
tion of the greatest good. 

Other arguments have been produced in 
support of the unity of the Great Supreme^* 
which it may be proper to mention in this 
connexion, though they may not be re- 
garded as of equal force with those which 
have been already stated. 

It has been observed that it is more ho- 
nourable to conceive of God as one and 
UNRIVALLED, than as one amongst a num- 
ber of equal and co-ordinate deities. This 
is true. But this is no argument against 
the existence of a plurality of Gods. The 
perfection we ascribe to the Supreme Being 
relates to his inherent excellences, and not 
to any thing extrinsic. And from these it 
would be no derogation if it could be proved 
that other beings might exist who possessed 
similar attributes. 

It has also been alleged, that if other 

358 The Unity of God 

Gods existed they would be entitled to our 
veneration and homage, though they were 
not our creators ; and therefore their exist- 
ence would be revealed to us. But it is 
hard to say of what use this knowledge 
would be to mankind ; and it is most certain 
that human adoration could be of no advan- 
tage to, and could not be regarded as confer- 
ring any honour upon these supposed divi- 
nities. There is no reason, therefore, to be- 
lieve that the existence of such beings would 
be the subject of a divine revelation. 

The venerable archbishop Tillotson ar- 
gues that, " if there be more Gods than 
one, all but one are needless. But neces- 
sary existence is essential to the Deity; 
therefore there can be but One God." But 
the fallacy of the archbishop's argument 
lies in the two-fold meaning of the word 
necessity. To exist by a necessity of nature 
is one thing, but to be necessary to ac- 
count for the production of an effect is an- 
other. One is an absolute, the other is jBi 
modal necessity ; and these two, necessities 
are perfectly distinct ; and they are not to 

asserted and proved. 359 

be confounded together. The existence of 
the architect is necessary to the existence of 
the house ; it does not follow that the ar- 
chitect is necessarily existent. 

Upon the whole, from this brief review 
of the question, we may justly conclude 
that the light of nature, correctly and 
steadily pursued, would lead to the grand 
conclusion that there is One God, and 
there is none other but He. At the same time 
it must be allowed, that the argument from 
reason, however satisfactory, and even de- 
monstrative, is very far from being obvious 
to the great mass of mankind ; to whom 
nevertheless it is a doctrine of the utmost 
ijMPORTANCE ; and this. 

Secondly, is what I now proceed to state 
and illustrate. 

And the whole may be comprehended 
under this one general proposition, viz. 

That the doctrine of the proper, sole, 
undivided unity of God, is an effectual pre- 
servative from the manifold evils of jpo/y- 

Polytheism is either heathen or Christian. 

360 The Unity of God 

Heathen Polytheum was of the grossest 
kind, and productive of the very worst ef- 
fects upon the character and morals. The 
gods of what has quaintly, and most ab- 
surdly been styled the elegant mythology* 
of Greece and Rome, were beings of the 
most profligate character. There is not a 
vice with which they were not chargeable- 
There is no crime which did not find its 
patron in the multitude of heathen deities. 
Their votaries encouraged themselves in 
wickedness by the example of their gods. 
And many of the rites of heathen worship 
were scandalously immoral. The polythe- 
ism and idolatry of the heathen was^ beyond 
comparison, worse than atheism itself. And 
because they did not choose to retain God 
in their knowledge, therefore God gave 
them up to a reprobate mind. 

Christian Polt/theum is either Popish or 

Popish Polytheism is partly extravagant 
and absurd, partly immoral, and universally 
impious and inconsistent with that reve- 

• See Gibbon. 

asserted and proved. 36 1 

rence and homage which is appropriate to 
the Supreme Being. The doctrine of tran- 
substantiation, or the conversion of a mor- 
sel of bread into God by the priest's mutter- 
ing a few barbarous words over it, is the 
grossest insult which was ever offered to 
the common sense of mankind. It exceeds 
every thing absurd and monstrous in hea- 
then mythology. The celebrated orator of 
Rome remarks that, '' of all the absurdities 
which had been introduced into the popular 
religion, no men had ever thought of wor- 
shipping the bread they eat." This extra- 
vagance of absurdity was reserved for men 
professing themselves Christians. The wor- 
ship of saints is an impiety similar to that 
of heathen idolatry. Indeed it is the same 
worship under another name ; and the tem- 
ples, the images, the altars, and the invo- 
cations which were formerly appropriated 
to the gods and goddesses of the ancient 
mythology, are now applied to Peter and 
Paul, to the Virgin Mary and St. Anne, 
and to other saints^ or pretended saints, 
some of whom were as profligate and as 

362 The Unity of God 

malignant as any which disgraced the hea- 
then calendar. 

Protestant Polytheism is neither so extra- 
vagant nor so pernicious as that of hea- 
thenism or of popery ; but it is much to be 
censured as a lamentable deviation from 
the faith and worship of the true Grod, and 
as attended with many evil consequences. 
In protestant countries, which profess to 
have renounced the errors of antichristian 
Rome, there are Three Beings who, in the 
creed of many churches, usurp the throne 
and the prerogatives of the One Supreme. 
The Son of God, Jesus, the holy prophet 
of Nazareth, is advanced, in direct contra- 
diction to his own explicit declarations, to 
an equality with the Supreme Creator and 
Lord of all. And the Holy Spirit, that di- 
vine energy, by which the prophets were 
inspired, and were enabled to perform 
miraculous works, and to foretel future 
events, is advanced from an energy to a 
person, and from a person is raised to a 
rank in the godhead equal to that of the 
Father and the Son. The principle of «i/ 

asserted and proved. 363 

and the persecuting power are personified in 
the New Testament, under the name of 
Satan and the Devil : and this imaginary 
being is mistaken for a real person, possess- 
ing the attributes of omniscience and om- 
nipresence, and of power inferior to none 
but that of God himself; and though this 
imaginary malignant spirit is not called a 
god, he is in fact deified ; for attributes are 
ascribed to him which belong to God alone ; 
and that fear and dread of him is rooted in 
the hearts of many, which ought not to be 
felt for any created being. Thus these 
imaginary deities share in the homage and 
worship which is only and wholly due to 
the Great Supreme, and rob the true God 
of. his honour. It is also notorious that in 
some cases the Almighty Father is almost 
wholly excluded from acts of worship, and 
is regarded merely as an object of terror, 
while the grateful affections are transferred 
to his supposed equal, and more gracious 
and merciful Son. 

Nor can those Christians be entirely ac- 
quitted of polytheism, who, while they deny 

364 The Unity of God 

the necessary existence of the Son, and 
his equality with the Father, and decline 
offering direct addresses and acts of wor- 
ship, nevertheless ascribe to him those 
works of creation and providence, which 
reason and revelation attribute to the im- 
mediate agency of the Supreme Being, 
and which unquestionably entitle the au- 
thor of them to the homage and worship of 
the creatures whom he hath made ; agree- 
ably to the exhortation of the Psalmist 
(Psalm xiv.), " O come, let us worship and 
bow down, let us kneel before the Lord 
our Maker, for He is our God/' But it is 
hard for error to be consistent with itself; 
and the high importance of the doctrine of 
the divine Unity may be justly inferred from 
the many practical evils into which men 
have fallen by their deviation from it. 

I shall close the discourse with a few re- 

1. How great is our obligation to divine 
revelation, which teaches this momentous 
doctrine, and has set it in the clearest light! 

This important trutli, which lies at the 

asserted and proved. 365 

foundation of* all rational and acceptable 
religion, seems to have been early and to- 
tally lost from the world. Abraham him- 
self was originally an idolater. But he 
and his family were selected by the divine 
wisdom to preserve, and to bear a constant 
and public testimony to the Unity of God. 
This is the main design and object of the 
Jewish revelation. The first precept of 
those which were engraven by the finger 
of God upon the tablets of stone given 
to Moses in the mount, was this, " Thou 
shalt have no other God but me." And 
Moses solemnly calls upon the Israelites 
to hear and to attend to the important 
declaration. The Lord is our God, the 
Lord is One. But the Jewish revelation 
was not calculated for universal use; and 
the heathen world lay for many ages under 
a gross delusion. It has, indeed, been as- 
serted by many, that some of the heathen 
sages believed and taught the unity of 
God. But it appears from the writings of 
these philosophers and their disciples, that 
they entertained many doubts upon the 

366 The Unity of God 

subject ; and at any rate they countenanced 
and supported the idolatry of their coun^ 
try by joining, and teaching their disciples 
to join in the worship of their country's 
gods. This was the advice of Socrates him- 
self ; who nevertheless argues concerning 
the wisdom and benevolence of divine Pro- 
vidence, in a manner which would do cre- 
dit to the most enlightened Christian. Yet 
still he hesitates upon the subject of the 
divine Unity ; commonly adopting the 
language of polytheism; and in his last 
moments ordering a cock to be sacrificed 
to iEsculapius. The world by wisdom 
knew not God. To dispel this gross mo- 
ral darkness, the christian doctrine rose 
upon the world like the morning sun, with 
salvation in his beams. Of this divine 
religion the Unity of God is the foundation 
stone. Our Lord himself taught that the 
primary truth, that doctrine which lies at 
the foundation of all religion is this, " The 
Lord is our God, the Lord is One." The 
apostles declare, that the design of their 
mission is to convert men from the worship 

asserted and prwed. 367 

of idols to the knowledge of the living and 
true God. And to us, who profess to re- 
ceive the apostolic doctrine in its primitive 
purity, there is but One God, and One 
Mediator between God and m^n, the Man 
Christ Jesus. When we recollect what the 
mischievous consequences of polytheism 
have been, and what a tendency the least 
deviation from the true doctrine concern- 
ing the divine nature has to generate still 
greater and more important errors, we can-^ 
not but acknowledge that we have the 
greatest reason for thankfulness, that the 
divine Unity is so explicitly affirmed in the 
New Testament, that even those who hold 
opinions the most opposite to it in fact, are 
under the necessity of assenting to it in 
words, and of endeavouring to reconcile 
their own strange and unscriptural notions 
with that which Jesus himself has declared 
to be the fundamental doctrine of his reli- 

2. Their zeal is not to be condemned who 
are jealous for the important doctrine of 
the divine Unity, and whose labours are 

368 The Unity of God 

principally directed to the recovery and the 
universal restoration of that long lost truth'^ 
the unrivalled Supremacy of the One God 
and Father of all. 

Because, by these means they are endea-^ 
vouring to recover the world, and especi- 
ally the christian world, from error to truth, 
and from corrupt systems of doctrine, the 
tendency of which is to rob the true Grod of 
his honour, and to substitute polytheism, 
idolatry, and all their mischievous conse- 
quences in the place of the knowledge, the 
worship, the love, and the service of the 
One, Supreme, all- perfect Being, whose 
transcendent attributes, and governing wis- 
dom, may justly occupy all our thoughts, 
absorb all our affections, and engross all 
our religious homage; and who will not 
give his glory to another. In these labours 
they act in harmony with the patriarchs 
and prophets of the ancient dispensation, 
and with Jes^us and his apostles under 
the New. And if their conduct springs 
from right motives, and is animated by 
christian zeal, tempered with christiaJD, not 

asserted and proved. 369 

with worldly prudence, they shall not ulti- 
mately fail, either of the desired success, 
or of the due reward. Nor let them won- 
der if, in the prosecution of their holy and 
honourable purpose, their conduct should 
be harshly censured by those whom it is 
their desire and endeavour to instruct, and 
to reclaim ; if by those who are deeply in- 
fected with the prejudices of the age, or 
who are too indolent and irresolute to in- 
quire, or, who desire to make a fair appear- 
ance in the world, or, who regard religion 
as a tool of state, and who make the pro- 
fession of Christianity a stepping-stone to 
the temple of mammon, or, whose professed 
design it is to keep mankind in stupid and 
servile ignorance, let them not be surprised, 
if by such persons their conduct is traduced, 
their motives are vilified, if they are held 
up to contempt as fanatics, and are ex- 
posed to detestation as disturbers of the 
public peace, and as enemies to their coun- 
try, to its laws, to its government, and to its 
religion ; if they are represented as unwor- 
thy of being acknowledged as member$ of 
VOL. IL 2 B 

870 The Unity of God 

the christian community, and as deserving 
the animadversions of the civil power ; if 
they are even exposed to the fury of a law- 
less mob, and banished to the utmost verge 
of civil society.* Generous friends and 
benefactors of mankind ! honourable con- 
fessors in the cause of christian truth ! Be 
not dismayed. So persecuted they the pro- 
phets which were before you. Thus did 
they insult and injure our divine master 
himself. Your labour in the Lord shall not 
be in vain. Be it my ambition to breathe 
your spirit, to share in your reproach, and, 
if such be the will of God, to participate 
in your losses and your sufferings, so that 
I may participate in your superior wisdom, 
in your disinterested love of truth, in your 
christian fortitude, in your mental peace, 
and in your final triumph. 

* This allades to the case of Dr. Priestley, who 
thought it necessary to take refuge in America from the 
persecution to which his zeal for the divine Unitj ex- 
posed him in his native land. Thank God, we live in 
better times, and Unitarianism is now pn>lected by 

asserted and proved. 37 1 

3. The doctrine of the divine Unity is of 
great practical importance. 

It is represented by our Lord as lying 
at the foundation of all virtuous practice. 
In reply to the question, which is the first 
commandment of all, he declares, in the 
most solemn and earnest language, '^ The 
first of all the commandments is. Hear, O 
Israel, the Lord is thy God, the Lord is 
One. And thou shalt love the Lord thy 
God with all thy heart, and with all thy 
soul, and with all thy understanding, and 
with all thy strength. This is the first 
commandment, and the second is like unto 
it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy- 
self He that truly and heartily believes 
that God is One, will worship and serve 
him with undivided homage; and^ regard** 
ing all mankind as children of the same 
Father, he will love them with fraternal 
affection, and by unceasing endeavours to 
promote knowledge, virtue, and happiness, 
he will aspire to become perfect^ as his Fa* 
ther in heaven is perfects 

3 B 2 



1 Peter, iii. 16. 
Haoing a good conscience* 

To a good conscience three qualities are 
indispensably requisite : a competent know- 
ledge of the rule of duty — ^habitual confor- 
mity to it — and frequent, serious, self-ex- 

1. Conscience is the principle by which 
we approve or condemn action, affection, and 
character, as they conform to, or deviate 
from, the apprehended rule of life. To a 
good conscience it is essential that the rule 
of duty should be agreeable to Truth, other- 
wise, conscience will be erroneous in its de- 
cisions: it will approve where it ought to 
condemn, or condemn without reason, and 
even where it ought to approve. 

A GOOD CONSCIENCE forms a just estimate 

The Blessing of a good Conscience. 375 

of the moral value of action, habit, and 
character. It neither mistakes the nature, 
nor the relative value of moral actions: it 
does not call good evil, nor evil good : it 
does not over-rate things that are indiffer- 
ent : much less does it undervalue matters 
which truly possess a moral character. 

A good conscience takes great pains to 
enlighten the understanding in moral truth, 
and uses with diligence and perseverance 
all the necessary means for this purpose. It 
exercises reason upon moral subjects, and 
deliberately estimates the moral value of 
habit, affection, action, and character. It 
learns from history, observation and expe- 
rience ; and thankfully accepts of instruc- 
tion derived from the conversation, the 
writings, the teaching, and the example of 
the virtuous and the wise. But its chief 
directory is the holy scripture, which re- 
veals in clear and explicit language the 
rule of duty, which suggests the most pow- 
erful motives to virtuous practice, and which 
exhibits many edifying examples of virtue 
and piety : and above all, that of Jesus, in 

374 The Blemng of a good Conscience. 

which human excellence was carried to its 
highest perfection, and was displayed in the 
most interesting circumstances, 

A good conscience discerns the extent 
and spirituality of the divine law : that the 
design of it is to regulate the temper and 
character throughout : that it extends not 
only to external actions, but to the thoughts 
and purposes of the heart : that it not only 
forbids the act of sin, but even the thought 
of foolishness : that it requires purity of 
motive, as well as decency of conduct 

2. Where there is a competeqt know- 
ledge of right, but an habitual deviation 
from the law of rectitude, the decision of 
an enlightened conscience will indeed be 
Just, but terrible : it will be the stem sen- 
tence of an incorruptible and inflexible 
judge, not Che mild language of an approv- 
ing friend. It is essential, therefore, to a 
good conscience, that the character and 
conduct should be habitually virtuous. 

This habit of virtue must appear in the 
whole conduct of life. Some deviations 
from the strict rule of duty, in creatures so 

The Blessing of a good Conscience. 375 

imperfect, are perhaps inevitable ; but they 
must in no case be allowed, or even tole- 
rated. And an enlightened conscience 
never suffers any voluntary transgression^ 
nor any wilful omission of duty to pass 
without reproof. Nor will it ever bestow 
clear and decided approbation where habi- 
tual virtue is wanting. 

Words, as well as actions, fall under the 
cognizance of this all-controlling power. 
He that would keep a clear conscience, 
must set a watch upon the door of his lips. 
All profane words^ all vain and foolish 
speeches, all loose and licentious conversa- 
tion, are prohibited by an enlightened con- 
science; which requires sound speech that 
cannot be condemned ; conversation always 
innocent, sometimes instructive ; and is far 
from forbidding the cheerfulness which is, 
indeed, its legitimate offspring, and ought 
to be its constant companion. 

It is the prerogative of the divine law 
that it extends even to the thoughts : and 
all the imaginations of the heart are subject 
to the control of conscience^ All wicked 

376 The Blessing of a good Conscience. 

thoughts — all mischievous, malicious, and 
revengeful purposes — all foolish and im- 
pure imaginations — all impious and blas- 
phemous conceptions, must be expelled 
from the mind. Nor should vain, trifling, 
useless thoughts be permitted to reside 
there. The thought of foolishness is sin : 
and conscience will never yield entire ap- 
probation till all the powers of the soul, 
and every thought and feeling of the heart, 
are brought into complete subjection to the 
authority of Christ. 

All the habits of the mind must be 
conformable to the laws of virtue. One 
single vicious habit is sufficient to destroy 
all peace of mind, and to exclude from all 
title to the kingdom of God. Nor will en- 
lightened conscience ever be bribed to si- 
lence, till every rebellious affection is ex- 
terminated. When ail affections and habits 
are reduced to the standard of virtue, then, 
and not till then, will conscience whisper. 

The principles of action, be they what 
they may, are all subject to the cognizance 

The Blessing of a good Conscience. 377 

of conscience, and must be just and ho- 
nourable to secure its approbation. When 
a man is seen to perform worthy actions, 
when he appears to be just, and generous, 
and good, charity requires that we should 
think well of him, and should attribute 
such actions to right principles, unless we 
have just reason to suspect the contrary. 
But this will not satisfy conscience. If that 
all-observing power discerns that actions 
which appear mentorious to the world, 
flow from mean and selfish principles, or 
that the form of religion is substituted for 
its power, and that the guise of sanctity is 
but a cloak for vice, or if it perceives that 
the springs are mean and polluted, what- 
ever the brilliancy, or even the utility of 
the action may be, and whatever opinion 
candid and good men may entertain of the 
agent, conscience passes her severest cen- 
sure upon it, and sulBfers not hypocrisy to 
enjoy with impunity the applause of virtue. 
But where the motive is right, she fixes the 
stamp of her approbation, even though the 

978 The Bkmng (^ a good Consdemce. 

action may perhaps exceed the limits of 
strict discretion, though the effect may fall 
short of the generous purpose, and though, 
through error or malignity, it may encoun* 
ter the rude censure of the world. 

3. To constitute approbation of con- 
science, frequent, serious self-reflection is es- 
sential, and the clear discernment of habi* 
tual conformity to the rule of duty. 

Frequent self examination is a very strong 
presumption in favour of a good conscience. 
As a man whose afiairs are in disorder loves 
not to look into his accounts, so he whose 
conscience charges him with habitual dis* 
obedience, has little incHoation to examine 
into the state of his own mind. But the man 
whose transactions are successful, and who 
has reason to expect a balance in his favour, 
will take pleasure in looking into his affairs : 
and the man whose habitual conduct is 
correct, will take pleasure in looking into 
the state of his heart, and in settling his ac* 
count with conscience. Thus he acquires 
the sati^action of coosdous integrity, iw 

The Bkmng of a good Comdence. 379 

learns to correct what is amiss, and to con-^ 
firm and improve virtuous habits and affisc<> 

The value of an approving conscience 
has been attested by wise and good men in 
all ages. '' He that hath a good conscience/' 
says the Roman lyrist, '' needs no wea- 
pons of war : yea, though the world should 
burst asunder, he would stand fearless 
amidst the mighty ruins/' '' Great peace 
have they who love thy law/' says a poet 
of a still higher order, '^ and nothing shdl 
offend them/' '^ Thou wilt keep him in 
perfect peace," says the Hebrew prophet, 
*' whose mind is staid on thee, because he 
trusteth in thee/' And again, "the work 
of righteousness is peace, and the effect 
thereof quietness and assurance for ever/' 
To which we may add the testimony of the 
apostle Paul, ''Our rejoicing is this, the 
testimony of our conscience :" as though 
he had ftaid, whatever other sources of 
happiness we may possess, the greatest of 
all is that which we derive from the testi- 
mony of an approving conscience. 

380 The Biasing of a good Conscience. 

The agonies of an accusing conscience 
abundantly demonstrate the value of a con- 
science that is at ease. Every other pain is 
supportable ; and bodily sufferings of the 
most excruciating kind have been borne 
with firmness, and even with cheerfulness. 
But a wounded spirit who can bear ? Pro- • 
portionably delightful is the state of a mind 
at rest. A good man is satisfied from himself 
A reasonable being cannot reflect upon 
a course of action agreeable to its nature, wor- 
thy of its excellent faculties and powers, cor- 
responding with its dignity, and congruous 
to the relations in which it stands, without 
a consciousness of great satisfaction. And 
this delight is exceedingly enhanced by its 
inseparable connexion with an assurance of 
the divine favour, and the joyful anticipa- 
tion of future reward, *' Brethren, if our 
heart condemn us not, then have we confi- 
dence towards God." In these circum- 
stances we are allowed to look up to God 
as a Father : and if children, then are we 
heirs : heirs of God, and joint heirs with 
Jesus Christ 

The Blessing of a good Conscience. 381 

The comfort of an approving conscience 
is steady and uniform. It is not a tumul- 
tuous and rapturous joy. Such transports 
are mostly mechanical, and dependent upon 
the accidental state of the Animal spirits : 
and they are usually of short duration. 
But the satisfaction which arises from the 
testimony of conscience is tranquil and se- 
rene. It is justly named peace, a fixed 
state of mind. It is the sweet sunshine of 
the breast. Some gratifications are depen- 
dent upon bodily health and spirits; this 
least of all. Indeed, so frail a machine is 
man, that a shattered and disordered state 
of the nervous system will occasionally pro- 
duce depression of spirits, and will often 
prevent the most excellent characters from 
enjoying that inward satisfaction to which 
their integrity entitles them. But this is 
not a common case. Generally speaking, 
the testimony of conscience is in no degree 
affected by bodily pain : and the satisfac- 
tion of an approving mind is often highest, 
when the frail system of mortality verges 
upon dissolution. 

382 The Bkssing of a good CoMcienee. 

The pleasures of an approving conscience 
rise superior to almost ail others of which 
human nature is susceptible. They gratify 
its noblest powers. It were ingratitude to 
despise the gratifications of sense. When 
tasted with moderation, and in due subor- 
dination to superior objects, they are inno* 
cent and allowable, and ought to be received 
with gratitude. But these pleasures are 
gross and evanescent, and are chiefly use^ 
ful as they tend to generate and cherish 
the social affections. But peace of con- 
science is, as it were, heavenly food. It 
never palls upon the appetite: it never 
stupifies the faculties : it can never be taken 
to excess : it leaves no bitter reflections. 

Imagination is the source of a great va-* 
riety of pleasing and elegant combinations 
of ideas. The intellectual powers engaged in 
the pursuit of Truth, are the source of graver 
and more substantial delight. But what are 
all the ardent flights of fancy, what the amaz- 
ing discoveries in science and philosophy^ 
compared with that peace of mind which 
passeth all description ? 

The Blessing of a good Conscience. SB3 

Friendship^ society^ the tender and en- 
dearing connexions and relations of domes- 
tic life, are sources of the most exquisite 
delight which earth can give. But there is 
a friend that sticketh closer than a brother, 
whose friendship is far mor^ valuable than 
that of the dearest friend in the world. 
And that friend is conscience. Conscience 
is a friend always at hand, whose society 
and conversation is always welcome and 

The pleasures of deootion may be sup* 
posed to vie with those of conscience. But 
what God hath joined together, far be it 
from man to put asunder. True devotion 
cannot dwell where an approving con- 
science is a stranger. God has no pleasure 
in wickedness. 

Finally, Peace of conscience is essential 
to every other enjoyment. An evil con- 
science, like a subtle poison, diffuses its 
deadly venom over every comfort of life ; 
while a good conscience, like some noble 
cordial, exhilarates the spirits, and adds a 
zest to all other innocent gratifications. It 

384 The Blessing of a good Conscience. 

is hostile to no enjoyment that is worthy of 
a reasonable being. 

The testimony of an approving conscience 
is an abiding support in all the scenes and 
vicissitudes of life. Conscience is not like 
many who pretend friendship, and who, 
though they flatter in prosperity, will for- 
sake in adversity. It is a friend that will 
cleave to us in every vicissitude of fortune: 
it will yield the best support where it is 
most wanted, and will abound when other 
resources fail. 

Possessed of this inestimable treasure, a 
virtuous man may sometimes be called by 
divine Providence to change his habitation, 
his employment, and his connexions in life; 
to quit places, friends, and connexions which 
long custom had endeared, andtoenter upon 
other connexions and employments which, 
from novelty, or other causes, may be irk- 
some and disagreeable. But conscience is 
his companion still. And every place is a 
home, every burden is light, every difficulty 
is softened, every path is smooth, «very 
employment is pleasing, every connexion 

The Bleswig of a good Conscience. 385 

agreeable, where a good conscience is an 
inmate of the breast, and gently diffuses 
her all-healing balm^ 

A good conscience will yield support 
when prospects are most dark and discou- 
raging. For what can he fear whose heart 
does not upbraid him ? Wherever he goes 
he is defended by an impenetrable shield. 
He is clothed in celestial panoply. The 
eternal God is his refuge, and underneath 
are everlasting arms. 

I n personal affliction the testiitiony of con- 
science is the best support. When youth, 
and age, and vigour are fled, when the days 
of darkness and of sorrow draw near, when 
old age steals on, and pain and sickness 
seize upon the shattered frame, when earthly 
enjoyments are miserable comforters, and 
emptiness and vanity are written upon them 
all, in that dark season a good conscience 
js the best support, it diffuses radiance 
through the gloom, and speaks consolation 
to the heart. 

Under the ingratitude of friends, or the 
.censuresof the world, when evil is returred 
VOL. II. 2 c 

386 The Blessing of a good Conscience. 

for good, and hatred for love, when wrong 
constructions are put upon well-intentioned 
actions, when unprovoked malice gives 
vent to unmerited reproach, when friends 
forsake, and enemies insult, then, at that 
trying crisis, the approbation of conscience 
is the noblest, the most heart-reviving cor- 
dial. I appeal, will the righteous sufferer 
say, to a higher tribunal. To God will I 
commit my cause. He knows my inte- 
grity, and will in due time vindicate my 
character. When he hath tried me I shall 
come forth as gold. 

Sincere, and earnest, and long-protracted 
endeavours to do good, often fail of success, 
and the most promising hopes are some- 
times disappointed. £xhortations, instruc- 
tions, and prayers are offered in vain. The 
recollection is painful and discouraging. 
But conscious integrity and faithfulness 
will yield the best support. If the laborious 
but unsuccessful instructor should, (which 
however he will not often do,) see reason to 
complain, '' I have laboured in vain, and 
spent my strength for nought,'' conscience 

The Blessing of a good Conscience. 387 

will whisper the consolatory language, 
" Nevertheless thy work is with the Lord, 
and thy reward is with thy God." 

In a season of public danger and apprehen- 
sio7if amidst national calamity and alarm, 
in the view of civil commotion, or foreign 
invasion, a good conscience is the best pre- 
parative for whatever may happen. It arms 
the mind with fortitude. It inspires cou- 
rage and hope. It fears God, and it fears 
nought beside. It strengthens the heart. 
It nerves the arm : and looks with confi- 
dence to the God of battles, who will smile 
propitiously on the righteous cause. 

There is an hour approaching when heart 
and flesh shall fail, when earthly comforts 
will disappear, when the best friends can 
only sympathize, without being able to ad- 
minister relief There is a journey at hand 
which we must take alone. There is a war- 
fare from which there is no discharge. 
Conscience is the only friend that can stand 
by us in the painful struggle, and can ad- 
minister that support which will then be so 
much needed. An approving conscience 
2 c2 

388 The Blessing of a good Conscience. 

can triumph over deaths and in the near 
view of the final conflict can exclaim with 
rapture, O death, where is thy sting! O 
grave, where is thy victory ! 

The day is coming that shall bum as a fur- 
nace. The trumpet shall sound, and the 
dead shall be raised. Heaven and earth 
shall flee away. The judge shall appear in 
the clouds : in his own glory : in the glory 
of the Father : attended with all the pomp 
of heaven. We must all appear before the 
judgment seat of Christ. Actions and cha- 
racters will then be scrutinized. Tempers 
and habits will be reviewed : and thoughts 
will be brought to light. It is the great 
day of his wrath, and who will be able to 
stand ? None but the man who rejoices in 
the testimony of his conscience. He now 
thinks of that day without terror : he shall 
then bear a part in its grand solemnities 
without dismay. He shall appear unap- 
palled in the presence of his master and his 
lord : an enlightened conscience bears its 
approving testimonies, and the judge will 
confirm the testimony, and pronounce the 

The Blessing of a good Conscience. 389 

sentence, Well done, good and faithful 

Finally, This exquisite delight will be 
everlasting and ever-growing. In the New 
Jerusalem, in that state of glory and felicity 
into which the righteous shall be introduced 
after awaking from the long slumbers of the 
grave, the servants of God will not rest 
day nor night from the sacred offices of be- 
nevolence and piety : and every fresh act 
will add to the gratifications of an approv- 
ing conscience. What, then, will be the 
amount of this felicity, when the infinite 
succession of ages shall have multiplied 
these actions to an infwite and incompre- 
hensible sum, unmingled and undebased 
by one single unworthy action, affection, 
or thought ! 

Upon the review of this interesting sub- 
ject, how natural is it to reflect, 

1. Upon the extreme folly of those who 
slight and neglect the acquisition of an ap- 
proving conscience. 

And who sacrifice this inestimable trea- 
sure, this pearl of great price, to the solici- 

390 The Blessing of a good Camdence. 

tations of avarice, ambition, or pleasure* 
Peace of conscience cannot be bought too 
dear. It is well worth every sacrifice which 
may be necessary to secure it. And no- 
thing can compensate for its loss. 

2. How solicitous should we be to attain 
and secure this inestimable blessing. 

This peace which passeth all understand- 
ing, and the possession of which alone con- 
stitutes the true happiness of a reasonable 
being. How earnest, therefore, should we 
be in exercising ourselves, as the apostle 
expresses it, to maintain a conscience void 
of offence. 

3, What reason have they for content and 
cheerfulness in every condition of life, who 
enjoy the testimony of an approving con- 

For this is the sweetest balm of human 
life : it is itself an inexhaustible source of 
comfort at present, and under the righteous 
government of Supreme Wisdom and Be- 
nevolence, it is the surest pledge of happi- 
ness hereafter. How, then, can they fail 
to be content and happy in every situation 

The Blessing of a good Conscience. 391 

and condition of life, acquiescing with a 
grateful spirit in the wise allotments of di- 
vine Providence, and rejoicing in hope of 
the glory of God. 



Hbbrbws, X. 33. 
Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. 

Conscience is that moral power which 
approves or condemns motive, habit, ac- 
tion, or character, as they are perceived to 
agree with or to depart from the rule of 

Conscience is either good or evil. A good 
conscience is that which forms a right esti- 
mate of the rule of life, and which ap- 
proves Tnotives and actions which agree 
with it. An evil conscience is either a mis- 
informed, or a self-condemning conscience. 

1. In the first place conscience may be 

It may approve where it ought to con- 
demn, or it may condemn where it ought 

The Evils of an accusing Conscience. 393 

to approve. Conscience is by no means 
what many seem to apprehend, an instinc- 
tive principle. The contrary is evident 
from the diversity, and even the contra- 
riety of its dictates in different circum- 

If conscience were a natural and instinc- 
tive power, its dictates would be as invari- 
able as those of the organs of sense. There 
would be no more diversity of opinion con- 
cerning right and wrong, than there is 
concerning light and darkness, white and 
black, sweet and bitter. The dictates of 
conscience would be uniform and univer- 
sal ; the same at all times and in all places, 
in all ages and in all countries ; whereas, 
no fact can be more obvious than this, that 
actions which are regarded as perfectly in- 
nocent, or even highly meritorious in one 
age or country, are looked upon in other 
ages and countries with horror and detes- 
tation. And even in the same age and 
country, among those who live under the 
same laws, and who profess the same reli- 
gion, there is a wide difference in their re- 

394 The Evils of a misinformed 

spective estimation of moral good and evil, 
in exact proportion to the difference of their 
education in the different classes of society. 
They who have been educated in right 
principles, maintain a sacred regard to truth 
and justice, to honour and integrity, to be- 
nevolence and piety, whereas the unfortu- 
nate wretches who have been brought up 
in the haunts of vice and profligacy, consi- 
der truth and honesty as of no value, and 
pride themselves in their dexterity aq4 ^V^P* 
cess in fraud, falsehood, and mischief. 

Conscience then, may be, and often 19, 
misinformed ; and that sometirpes to a, t)^t;y 
great degree. 

Some are taught to regard crimes as vir- 
tues. The history pf persecution, in eyery 
chapter of its darl^ and bloody det(iiIS| il- 
lustrates and cppfirms the fact. It )s not 
to be supposed that all persecutors have 
been hypocrites. Some have been such 
without a doubt ; aqd history proves that 
niany of the most savage and unrelenting 
persecutors have been men of no religion 
at all ; men who have made religion the 

and an acctmng Conscience. 395 

stalkiog-horse of ambition and avarice, or 
the instrument of cruelty and revenge. 
But there have been persecutors who have 
been men of the greatest integrity and 
piety ; and who, in their harshest proceed- 
ings, have only followed the dictates of an 
erroneous conscience. ** The time shall 
come/* said our Lord to his apostles, 
'' when whosoever killeth you shall think 
that he doeth God service." And the apos- 
tle Paul, previous to his conversion, verily 
thought that he ought to oppose the doc- 
trine of Jesus, and madly to persecute his 
followers even in distant cities. The Jews, 
who persecuted the first believers, had a 
zeal for God, but not according to know- 
ledge. The heathen, who cast the Chris- 
tians to wild beasts, or who endeavoured to 
exterminate them by fire and sword, seri- 
ously regarded them as the declared ene- 
mies of the human race, who were conspi- 
ring to overthrow all the ancient systems 
of religion, to subvert all the established 
forms of government, and to turn the world 
upside down. The papists, who exposed 

396 The Evils of a mmnformed 

the protestants to the dungeons and tor- 
tures of the infernal Inquisition, and who 
massacred them by thousands, destroyed 
their bodies to save their souls, or at least 
to impede the propagation of what they es- 
teemed damnable heresy. And the pro- 
testants themselves who, with gross incon- 
sistency, persecuted each other with fines, 
scourging, and imprisonment, and some- 
times even with death, on account of their 
religious differences, have hoped thereby 
to obstruct the progress of pestilent error, 
to accelerate the march of truth, and to re- 
commend themselves to God. 

But persecution is not the only crime 
which has been mistaken for virtue. In 
some countries polygamy, concubinage, 
and incest, are esteemed innocent In 
others parents are exposed and deserted 
when they become old and infirm, and are 
no longer able to maintain themselves ; and 
in many places it has been esteemed quite 
innocent to expose new-born children to 
death. By some nations prisoners of war 
are enslaved or massacred, and many, ev^ 

afid an acamng Conscience. 397 

in these days of enlightened humanity, still 
think it lawful to seize the persons of help- 
less and unoffending victims, and to trans- 
port them into foreign climes, to end their 
days in slavery and misery ; a crime of the 
blackest dye, from which this nation has 
happily cleared itself, though it still pre- 
vails in other countries which profess the 
christian name. 

That must, indeed, be a strangely per- 
verted and misguided conscience^ which 
can approve of crimes like these. But the 
fact is undeniable. And let it be remem- 
bered, that the error of the understanding 
does not diminish the mischief; perhaps 
not even the moral turpitude of the deed, 
if proper means have not been used to en- 
lighten and rectify the moral feelings. This 
negligence leaves a man utterly inexcusa- 
ble, whatever allowance may be made in 
the estimation of infinite mercy, for una- 
voidable ignorance, or invincible prejudice. 
But such misconceptions, and the dreadful 
evils which result from them, clearly de- 
monstrate the indispensable necessity of 

398 The Evils of a misinformed 

using the best means of enlightening the 
conscience, and of forming a just concep- 
tion of the rule of duty. It likewise follows, 
that they, who by due consideration and 
inquiry, have themselves attained just views 
of moral subjects, are required to interfere, 
as occasions may occur, by all prudent and 
temperate means, to restrain and to coun- 
teract the mischiefs which accrue from the 
uncontrolled operation of misguided zeal, 
and an erroneous conscience. 

Many whose consciences do not dictate 
crimes, nevertheless lay undue stress upon 
trifles, and things indifferent. In the hea- 
then world great stress was often laid upon 
superstitious rites which possessed no moral 
value ; and the Pharisees are justly ac- 
cused by our Lord for the scrupulous ex- 
actness with which they paid the tithe of 
rue, anise, and cummin, while they neg- 
lected the important duties of justice, mer- 
cy, and fidelity. Christians of all denomi- 
nations, and in all ages, have fallen into a 
similar error. In the church, which calls 
itself catholic, penances and pilgrimage^s. 

and an accusing Conscience. 599 

and counting of beads, and distinctions of 
days, food, and dress, are, even to this 
day, considered as of great importance. 
And even in those churches which assume 
the title of Reformed, the same spirit has 
discovered itself in a different shape ; and 
questions of the most trivial nature con- 
cerning rites, and forms, and holy seasons, 
and sacerdotal vestments, and fasts, and 
festivals, have occupied more attention than 
duties of indispensable obligation, or truths 
of the highest importance. And tt too 
frequently happens, that a conscience thus 
misled, passes a severer sentence upon the 
omission of a trifling ceremony, than upon 
the violation of a moral duty. The offer- 
ing at the altar of God supersedes obedi- 
ence to an express, and a most important 
moral precept. 

A wise man will apply to every subject 
the attention that is due to its moral im- 
portance. But there are some worthy per- 
sons who lay so much stress upon trifles, 
and have so many scruples concerning ac- 
tions which are essentially indifferent, that 

400 The Evils of a misinformed 

their delicate and sickly consciences are 
sources of continual uneasiness to them- 
selves, and of trouble and vexation to their 
connexions. Their extreme scrupulosity 
excludes them in a great measure from the 
duties of social life, it lowers their charac- 
ter, and impedes their usefulness. 

But as conscience is liable to err con- 
cerning the rule of duty, so likewise it is 
sometimes misinformed with regard to the 
sanctions of the divine law. 

1( secular interest be regarded as the only, 
or principal sanction of the rule of life, 
conscience will reproach the offender only 
in proportion as his profit or loss may be 
affected by his misconduct. If wealth be 
accumulated, if every returning year adds 
to his treasures, and enlarges the bounda- 
ries of his estates, he thinks but little of the 
groans, and tears, and miseries of those 
from whose labour it is wrung, by whose 
ruin his coffers are replenished, and from 
whose sufferings and blood his riches are 

If reputation be in his estimation the 

and an accusing Conscience. 401 

principal sanction of virtue, the reproofs of 
conscience will be chiefly directed against 
those vices which expose to disgrace and 
ignominy ; but the rules of temperance, of 
justice, and of piety, will be violated with 
little regret. 

Wrong views of the divine character will 
sometimes contribute to render the deci- 
sions of conscience erroneous and injuri- 
ous. If the beneficent Creator, if the wise 
and righteous Judge of all the earth be re- 
garded as a merciless tyrant, watching with 
vigilant malignity over the infirmities and 
failings of his creatures, and dooming them 
to eternal misery for every error, and for 
every fault, for every unguarded word, and 
for every vain and idle thought, conscience 
must in such cases be a source of exquisite 
and perpetual torment, for who can tell 
how often he offends ? 

Thus it appears that conscience is liable 
to err, both with respect to the rule of life, 
and the sanctions of virtue. And an erro- 
neous conscience may justly be styled an 
evil conscience, both as it misleads from 

VOL. II. 2 D 

402 The Evils of a misinformed 

the path of duty, and as it misapplies both 
its commendation and its censure; speak- 
ing peace when there is no peace: and 
denouncing terror when there is no ground 
for alarm. And we cannot be too much 
upon our guard against the common, but 
pernicious error, that conscience is a natu- 
ral and divinely inspired principle, which 
invariably prompts to what is right, and 
whose dictates ought, upon all occasions, 
to be implicitly obeyed. 

Nevertheless, the contrary extreme must 
be avoided with equal care- To conclude, 
that because conscience is sometimes mis- 
informed, its testimony is in all cases to be 
disregarded, would indeed be a fetal error. 
Such is the moral constitution of human 
nature, and such the circumstances in which 
men are placed, that the dictates of con- 
science are generally right, though witbsome 
important exceptions. Truth, honesty, and 
charity, are universally approved, and false- 
hood, fraud, and dishonesty, are universally 
stigmatized. These sentiments are gene** 
rated by the common discipline of lif^ 

and an accusing Conscience. 403 

and, generally speaking, men may as soon 
cease to be men, as they can divest them- 
selves of those moral qualities which are 
essential to the existence of the social state. 

And when conscience reproves, which it 
will not fail to do when the rule of right is 
violated, it is in vain to affect indifference to 
its admonitions. Whether right or wrong, 
whether the dictates of conscience be cor- 
rect or incorrect, they are not to be trifled 
with, they will not fail to rouse the feelings 
and to command attention. 

An accusing conscience is exquisitely pain- 
ful, even though founded upon erroneous 
principles, and exercised upon indifferent 
objects. The neglect of a trifling observ- 
ance, or a superstitious rite, will be visited 
with all the compunction of a moral of- 
fence. And in some cases, in which the 
being, the providence, and the righteous 
judgment of God have been called in 
question, and the sanctions of a future life 
have been treated with contempt, when 
the sense of shame, and the dread of public 
exposure, have been the only weapons 
2 D 2 

404 The Evils of a misinformed 

which have been left for conscience to 
wield, the terrors of a guilty mind have 
often proved insupportable, and death has 
been sought with avidity, as the only refuge 
from mental agony. 

An accusing conscience is always an un- 
welcome companion, but it is then most 
formidable when its reproaches are most 
just. And the censures of a well-informed 
conscience will always be in exact propor- 
tion to the nature and aggravation of the 

The pain of an accusing conscience arises, 
in the first place, from the knowledge that 
a known principle and rule of duty has been 

We are all creatures of habit more than 
of reason, and whatever some speculative 
men may talk of the necessity of reasoning 
upon the remote consequences of all ac- 
tions before you perform them, the rule, in 
practice, would be found impossible. Were 
it attempted, life would be wholly spent in 
i^peculation, and while men were delibera- 
ting upon consequences, the season for per- 

and an accusing Conscience. 405 

formance would be past. To avoid this 
inconvenience, men treasure up in their 
minds general principles to direct their 
conduct upon common occasions, and ne- 
ver deliberate but in cases of unusual oc- 
currence, or of peculiar importance. And 
the violation of an established rule is al- 
ways productive of pain ; and this pain is 
greatly aggravated by the conviction, that 
the rule so transgressed was founded in 
truth and reason. 

The anguish which naturally accompa- 
nies a distempered mind, and which arises 
from what may be called the dislocation of 
the moral powers, contributes in a great de- 
gree to that accumulation of misery which 
constitutes a guilty conscience. 

There is a certain symmetry in the affec- 
tions which constitutes health and sound- 
ness of mind, and which is the source of in- 
ward peace and self-satisfaction. But when, 
by the violation of moral principle, the 
passions gain the ascendancy over the rea- 
son and the moral powers, they produce a 
fever of the mind, which distresses and de- 

406 The Einls of a mmnfwmtd 

bilitates the heart, and fills the soul with 
anguish and dismay. Virtue is that state 
of mind in which every affection is in its 
proper place, and the very thoughts them- 
selves are under the dominipn of reason 
and truth. Vice is the dislocation of the 
faculties and moral powers, when the infe- 
rior affections usurp the place of reason 
and truth, and throw the whole constitu- 
tion into disorder ; and happiness is as in- 
consistent with this mental dislocation as 
ease with the fracture of a limb. Vice and 
misery are inseparable. 

The consciousness of guilt is attended 
with a sense of shame; a passion which 
takes its rise from the estimation in which 
we are held by those amongst whom we 
live, a vivid sense of the importance of 
which is one of the earliest acquisitions of 
the human mind, and one of the most 
powerful principles of action. It not nn- 
frequently overrules and bears down eveiy 
consideration and motive of self-interest, of 
reason, of duty, and of all other motives 
combined. When therefore the spirit of a 

and an accusing Conscience. AQH 

man is conscious that his conduct is such 
that, if it were known, it would expose him 
to be pointed at by the finger of scorn and 
" grinning infaniyj' the very suspicion of it 
overwhelms him with horror, and the fear 
of what may happen renders life a conti- 
nual and insupportable burden. 

Tins leads me to add, that/ear, the anti- 
cipation of what may happen both here 
and hereafter, is another source of exquisite 
misery to a guilty mind. 

Conscious of unrepented guilt, convinced 
that there is no forgiveness without repent- 
ance, assured, that while one sinful habit 
remains uncontrolled, and that every vici- 
ous act confirms the habit of sin, and adds 
to the dt^d account, and makes repents 
ance still more difficult; and well knowing, 
that every addition to his crime will be 
a i proportionable addition to his misery# 
his heart sinks within him at the alarming 
prospect; he becomes weary of existence, 
and >he cries out, " it had been better for 
me tbat I had never been born/* And in 

408 The Evils of a misinformed 

the mean time he leads a^ life of terror and 

He is fearful lest his evil inclinations 
should grow upon him ; and lest, after re- 
peated defeats, he should become the help- 
less captive of a domineering vice. He is 
fearful lest his bad habits, which he has hi- 
therto kept secret from the world, while he 
has maintained a fair character for morality, 
and even for sanctity, should, some time or 
other, be brought to light, and lest he 
should be exposed to disgrace and infamy. 

The terrors of his mind beget mperstitious 
apprehensions. He suspects that all nature 
is armed against him. He imagines an in- 
visible arm continually stretched over him 
to disappoint his purposes, to* baffle his de- 
signs, and to scatter curses upon his head. 
He sees a rock impending over him and 
ready to crush him to atoms. Or he ima- 
gines a sword suspended over him by a 
hair, and ready every instant to fall upon 
his head. Events of the most common oc- 
currence are, in his estimation, judgments 

and an accusing Conscience. 409 

from the Almighty. While he is awake his 
terrified imagination offers spectres to his 
view, and brings horrible sounds to his 
ears. When he is upon his bed he is scared 
with dreams and terrified with visions. 
He shuns society, for every countenance 
charges him with guilt. He is afraid of 
solitude, for he dare not encounter the 
pangs of self-reproach. How natural was 
the reflection of the brothers of Joseph, 
when he behaved harshly to them, upon 
their first introduction to him in Egypt. 
There was no apparent connexion between 
the ferocious language of an Egyptian des- 
pot, and a crime which they had commit* 
ted twenty years before. But conscience 
instantly made the application. They 
could not forbear saying to one another, 
even in the presence of Joseph himself, 
whom they knew not, and of whom they 
could not suspect that he understood their 
language. " We are verily guilty concern- 
ing our brother, in that we saw the anguish 
of his soul, when he besought us, and we 

410 The Evils of a misinformed 

would not hear. Therefore is this distress 
come upon us." 

A well instructed conscience also antici- 
pates the sentence which will finally be pro- 
nounced upon unrepented guilt. It enter- 
tains no fond foolish hope that infinite 
mercy will overlook crime, or that any fldi* 
racle will be wrought for the extermination 
of vicious and indulged habits. It is, hi- 
deedy a certain and glorious truth, that 
God will not always chide, neither will he 
keep his anger for ever. But a mind la- 
bouring under conscious guiit, having at 
the same time a clear discernment that 
it is in the established order of the divine 
government, that moral evil shall be even- 
tually exterminated by natural evil, which 
is its only effectual remedy ; and being as- 
sured by the christian revelation that the 
wicked, equally with the righteous, shall 
be raised to life ; if such a mind is properly 
awakened to a sense of its condition, it feds 
an unhesitating conviction, that if be rises 
at all, he must rise the same individual that 

and an accusing Conscience. 411 

he descended to the tomb : and if so, he 
will rise with all his bad habits and affec- 
tions adhering to him, and, consequently, 
that he will rise to shame, and sorrow, and 

Nor will he be able to persuade himself 
that this suffering will either be Jight in ide- 
gree or short in duration. Though he may 
not admit the vulgar conceptions of a local 
hell, or a material fire, he will plainly see, 
that with the most correct views, and the 
most rational expectations, enough remains 
to alarm the awakened offender to the ut- 
most extent of his faculties and powers. 
He knows from consciousness how difficult 
it is to subdue one vicious habit. He feels 
that all he suffers from the tyranny of vi- 
cious affections now, that all his. remorse, all 
the temporal inconvenience, all the dis- 
grace, all the terrors which cleave to vici- 
ous habits in the present life, combined 
with the apprehensions of a life to come, 
are insufficient to separate him from his 
sinful courses, and to accomplish substan- 
tial and thorough reformation. What then 

412 The Evils of a misinformed 

will he say, what will be the nature, the 
extent, or the degree of those sufferings in 
a future life, which will be found effectual 
to produce that entire and mighty transfor- 
mation from vice to virtue, to exterminate 
this rooted depravity of heart, to renew my 
moral nature, and to restore^me to hoUniess, 
to happiness, and to God. When he re- 
flects upon the certainty, and the awful 
severity of divine judgments, his heart is 
overwhelmed, and he will assuredly find, 
and he knows it well, that it is a fearful 
thing to fall into the hands of the living 

It may be added, that the keenest ago- 
nies of conscience arise from reflection. 

In the hour of temptation and of dis- 
sipation conscience is forgotten, serious 
thought is excluded, and vice reigns with 
unresisted sway. Every expedient is de- 
vised to stop the remonstrances of the un- 
welcome monitor. And the effort not un- 
frequently succeeds. Conscience suspends 
her agency ; she is silent ; and there is a 
calm ; a fatal momentary calm, ominous 

and an accusing Conscience. 413 

of an approaching tempest^ which shakes 
the wretched victim to his inmost center. 

Oh treacherous Conscience ! while she seems to sleep 
On rose and myrtle, lulled with Sjrren song, 
While she. seems nodding o'er her charge, and drops 
On headlong appetite the slackened rein, 
Unmark'd, as from behind her secret stand. 
The sly observer minutes every firnlt. 
And her dread diary with horror fills ; 
In leaves more durable than leaves of brass. 
Writes our whole history, which death shall read, 
And judgment publish. Hear it now 
While gentle its advice, its accent mild. 

The facts which have been stated upon 
this important subject may lead us to re- 

First, That parents, and those who are 
charged with the education of youth, ought 
not to be discouraged from instilling right prin- 
ciples into their minds, nor from inculcating 
the indispensable necessity of forming vir- 
tuous habits, and of leading a virtuous life, 
even though for the present they appear to 
themselves to labour in vain. They have 
a friend in the bosoms of those whom they, 
thus wisely and piously instruct, which will 
not suffer their doctrine to be lost, nor their 

414 The Evils of a mmnf armed 

faithfal admonitions to be as water spilled 
upon the ground. By enlightening the 
minds of young persons in moral truth, in 
the obligations to a virtuous practice, and 
in the awful sanctions of the christian reli- 
gion, the rewards and punishments of a life 
to come, they are setting a vigilant monitor 
over the conduct of the rising generation, 
which will not fail to remonstrate when they 
deviate from the path of wisdom and virtue, 
and whose sharp, seasonable admonitions 
may, in the end, produce the desired effect, 
when the lips of early and faithful in- 
structors shall be sealed in everlasting si- 
Finally, and above all things, secure a 
friend in an enlightened conscience. 

Conscience is a man's best friend, or his 
worst enemy. Where it is an enemy, it is 
a bitter enemy, it is an enemy which haunts 
a man everywhere ; which he has no power 
to resist, and at whose mercy he perpetu- 
ally lies. It is a flame kindled in his breast 
which inwardly torments and consumes 
him. It is a viper which twines about his 

and an accusing Conscience. 415 

heart>strings, and stings him in the tender- 
est part It is a hungry vulture, a never 
dying worm, which secretly preys upon his 
vitals, and fills him with agony and dismay. 
But where conscience is a friend, it is a 
friend indeed. It is a friend at home ; an 
inward, an intimate, a truly bosom friend. 
It is a friend at all times ; a friend that 
sticketh closer than a brother. It is a 
friend that will never desert us, even in 
the greatest extremity. Conscience is an 
invaluable friend ; far more so than any 
human friend. The friendship of con- 
science will compensate for the enmity of 
worlds. He that has a friend in his own 
heart, possesses the most solid ground of 
consolation and peace, in the midst of 
storms, encompassed with dangers, op- 
pressed with sorrows, loaded with unde- 
served reproach, involved on all sides in 
impenetrable gloom, he still enjoys inward, 
unutterable peace and serenity of spirit, 
which the world knoweth not of, and con- 
scious of integrity, his heart is at rest, trust- 
ing in God. 



Exodus, iii. 14. 

And God said to Mosesy I AM THAT I AM. And 
he said, Thus shaU thou say unto the children of Israel, 
I AM hath sent me unto you. 

The great legislator of the Jews, having 
been trained up in all the learning* and in 
all the prejudices of the Egyptians, had 
been taught to believe that the Supreme 
Being had an appropriate name, and that 
the use of this name would be a sufficient 
warrant to demand the release of his coun- 
trymen from their cruel bondage. He asks, 
therefore, by what name he should designate 
the being whose commission he bore. God, 
in condescension to the infirmity of his ser- 
vant, assumed to himself a. name expressive 
of the immutability of his nature, of bis 

The Self-existencey ^c. of God. 417 

counsels, of bis purposes, and of his pro- 
mises. I AM THAT 1 AM ; or, OS the words 
might more literally be rendered, I will be 
WHAT I WILL BE. The Septuagint version 
renders it the essence, or he who is. Thus 
shalt thou say to the children of Israel, The 
being who is, who will be what I will be. 
He who claims existence as his sole prero- 
gative, and in comparison with whom all 
other beings are less than nothing, and va- 
nity, I AM hath sent me unto you. In 
other words. Declare to thine afflicted bre- 
thren, that it is 1, the Lord of existence, the 
faithful, unchangeable God, the God of their 
fathers, the God whose promises are always 
accomplished to their utmost extent, who 
hath sent thee to announce that the season 
of their deliverance is fully come. 

Without any further preface, I now pro- 
ceed to the subject upon which I propose 
more immediately to treat in the present 
discourse, the Self-existence, the Eter- 
nity, and the Immutability of God. 

The first question which the inquisitive 
and serious mind anxiously desires to solve, 

VOL. n. 2 e 

418 The Self-existence, the Eternity, 

is this. Whether there be a God. The se- 
cond is of equal importance, and equally 
interesting. If there be a God, what is he? 
What are his attributes, and what his cha- 
racter ? Is he a limited, or an unlimited 
being? Is he an all- benevolent governor, 
or an arbitrary and malignant tyrant ? 

The ATTRIBUTES of God are distinguished 
into natural and moral. The natural attri- 
butes of God are those which he possesses 
independently on his will. His moral attri- 
butes are the tendencies, of his will to the 
production of good or evil, of happiness or 

Of the natural attributes of God, the pri- 
mary and fundamental is self-existence. 
God is a self-existent being. 

SEUi'-EXiSTENCEdoes uot imply that God 
derived existence from himself, or that he is 
in any degree dependent upon his own will 
and power for the continuance of his being. 
This would be a contradiction in terms. 
Self-production is an effect absolutely in- 
conceivable and impossible. When, there- 
fore, it is affirmed that God is self-existent, 

and the Immutability of God. 419 

the meaning is, that he is absolutely inde- 
pendent, that he derived his existence from 
none, and that he depends upon no being 
whatever either as his cause or support. 

It has been observed by some intelligent 
writers, that every being which exists has 
either a cause, or a reason for its existence. 
Of derived beings God is the proper and 
efficient cause, and the continual support. 
But of an original and independent being 
there can be no cause, and there needs no 
support. The reason why he exists is abso- 
lute necessity : so that it is a contradiction 
in nature that he should not exist. It is 
impossible for him not to be : or to be any 
other than what he is. 

Great use has been made of this principle 
to prove the absolute perfection of God. 
God exists, it is said, by necessity. But 
necessity is unlimited. It is every where, 
and at all times the same. Therefore God 
is unlimited. 

Again, Whatever attribute God possesses, 
he possesses in an unlimited degree, because 
he possesses it by necessity. But power is an 
2 e2 

420 The Self-existence, the Eternity, 

attribute of God, and therefore his power is 
unlimited^ that is, God is omnipotent. By 
parity of reason, God being proved to be 
possessed of knowledge in a certain degree, 
and possessing it by necessity of nature, must 
therefore possess it in the highest possible de- 
gree : that is, God is omniscient Also, if it 
be the attribute of God to occupy space and 
time, he must, by the necessity of his nature, 
occupy all space, and existthrough all du- 

It has also been argued, that if God pos- 
sesses any one attribute, in any imaginable 
degree, he must therefore possess every pas- 
sible attribute in the highest possible degree : 
because necessity, being the reason of the 
divine existence, and being unlimited, there 
can be no reason why the Divine Being 
possesses any one*attribute, in any one de- 
gree, which does not extend to the posses- 
sion of every other perfection in its highest 
possible degree. Therefore, God is by ne- 
cessity possessed of every possible perfection 
in the highest possible degree. That is, 
God is infinite. 

and the Immutability of God. 42 1 

It is further argued, that absolute neces- 
sity is but one. That there cannot be two, 
or more absolute necessities, any more than 
there can be two, or more infinite spaces : 
and consequently, that no more than one 
infinite being can exist; that is, that God 
is one, and that more Gods than one is an 
impossibility, a contradiction in the very 

I believe that all this subtle reasoning is 
perfectly just, and that if we had a clear 
comprehension of the nature of necessity, 
and of the reason of the. existence of a self- 
existent being, we should clearly see that it 
is impossible for him not to exist — that no 
more than 0N£ such being can exist — and 
that the one, original being, is the neces- 
sary subject of all possible perfections. 

But who can by searching find out God ? 
Of the nature of self-existence it is impos- 
sible for us to form, I do not say an adequate, 
but any, even the faintest conception. Our 
own existence is derived and precarious : 
we have nothing analogous to self-existence 
in our frame and constitution. To argue 

422 The Self-existence, the Eternity, 

the attributes of God from the mode of his 
existence, is therefore reasoning in the dark, 
it is wading far out of our depth. 

One thing we know concerning self-ex- 
istence—that it is the most excellent mode 
of being. All other modes of existence are 
derived, precarious, and dependent They 
were given at first ; and at the will of the 
donor they may be resumed. But self-ex- 
istence is original, underived, independent, 
unprecarious existence. It seems reasonable, 
therefore, to ascribe to such a being every 
possible excellence. 

It is an observation worthy of notice, that 
all limitation arises from some extemtd cause. 
No being limits itself. If the question be 
asked concerning the globe which we inha- 
bit, why it is not larger, more beautiful, or 
more populous than we now behold it? 
why the inhabitants are not more wise, more 
perfect, or more happy ? The only answer 
which can with propriety be given is, that 
such was the will of the Creator. He gave 
birth to the universe, and called the inhabi- 
tants into being. He assigned the time and 

and the Immutability of God. 423 

place of their existence, the sphere of their 
activity, the extent of their powers, and 
the degree of perfection to which they 
should respectively attain. But who shall 
limit the power, the knowledge, or the be- 
nevolence of a self existent being ? or the 
sphere of his operation? A being abso- 
lutely independent must be absolutely un- 
circumscribed ; in other words, a self ex- 
istent being must be infinite. 

Concerning self-existence it is further 
observable, that the human mind cannot 
form any positive conception of it. It is un- 
questionably a positive quality, of the 
highest excellence, as really existing as 
power, knowledge, or benevolence. But it 
baffles all attempts to form any positive 
idea of it For ail our notions of intelligent 
beings are limited to those faculties which 
exist in ourselves and are known by con- 
sciousness. Whatever exists in the human 
JH^d w]m<^ does not imply weakness, de- 
pendence, or guilt, we ascribe to the Su- 
preme Being in the highest degree, and 
thus we form the best notion of God of 

424 The Self-existence, the Eternity, 

which the human intellect is capable. Of 
these powers we can form a clear and dis- 
tinct conception. But when we attempt to 
conceive of self-existence, the mind la- 
bours and faints under the great idea. Our 
own faculties being all derived and preca- 
rious, we cannot form any positive notion 
of existence underived and original. Our 
idea of it is merely negative. We can say 
what it is not, but we cannot say what it is. 
We know that self-existence is not derived, 
is not dependent, is not precarious existence: 
that it never began : that it can never 
close : that it can suffer no change. But 
beyond this the human faculties do not ex- 
tend. The God whom we adore is in this 
respect, and ever will remain, a GrOB un- 
known, not only to beings of intellects so 
limited as mankind, but to all beings that 
exist, however exalted in dignity, or tran- 
scendent in excellence. 

I add further, that self-existence is the 
grand incommunicable attribute of Deity, ' 
which elevates him to an infinite superiority 
over all created beings, how great and ex* 

and the Immutability of God. 425 

trellent soever. Of the existence of any 
rational beings in the universe, besides the 
human race, we have no distinct or certain 
knowledge. The fact, however, is highly 
probable. And it is not for such finite be- 
ings as we are to set limits to the power of 
God. And as it seems probable that ex- 
cellence is progressive, and as there is ample 
room for infinite degrees of excellence be- 
tween man and his Creator, it is not impos* 
sible that in the successions of infinite dura- 
tion, a period may arrive when one who is 
now a fi'ail, feeble, mortal human being, 
may become as much superior to the highest 
archangel, as the most exalted of created 
spirits now is to the infant of a day. There 
is, indeed, no possibility of limiting the 
power or the intelligence which God may 
not, if he pleases, communicate to his crea- 
tures. But there is one attribute which he 
can never communicate, and that is, self- 
existence. Grod cannot make a creature 
independent of himself. The powers which 
he grants, he may at pleasure revoke : and 
the most exalted celestial spirit is as depen- 

426 The Self-existence, the Eternity, 

dent upon his sovereign will as the feeblest 
insect of a day. He alone claims absolute 
independence as his inalienable right This 
is the peculiar glory, the great prerogative 
of Deity, the glory that he will not, that he 
cannot give to another. 

Life, death, and hell, and worlds unknown, 

Hang on his firm decree. 
He sits on no precarious throne. 

Nor borrows leave to be. 

Let it also be remembered, that it ap- 
pears from the clearest evidence that this 
world, and by parity of reason all other 
worlds and systems, had a beginning of ex- 
istence. We are sure, therefore, that the 
power and wisdom of Grod are competent 
to the formation, the preservation, and the 
government of this world, and of all things 
in it, and universally of all beings whatever, 
from the highest to the lowest, which begin 
to exist. Now this power is beyond all hu- 
man comprehension, and this intelligence 
surpasses all human thought. But when 
we consider further, that this inconceivable 
power, this incomprehensible knowledge. 

a$ui the Immutability of God. 427 

exists in the Supreme Being originally, in- 
dependently, underived, and in the most 
absolute and perfect manner, it is almost 
impossible not to conclude that these attri- 
butes are in the strictest sense unlitnited, 
and it seems most reasonable to ascribe to 
that being whose mode of existence is so 
transcendent, and whose attributes so far 
surpass all human thought and comprehen- 
sion, every excellence which can possibly 
appertain to existence, and to conceive of 
him as possessing every ptmible petfection in 
the highest posMle degree. 

From the self-existence of the Supreme 
Being it clearly follows, that 

God is etebnal: or, in other words, 
that there nerer was a time when God was 
not; and there never will come a time 
when God shall cease to be. 

For, if there ever was a time when God 
did not exist, he never could have existed 
at all. Original existence must necessarily 
be eternal existence. For it is as palpable 
a contradktioB for jm original being to arise 

428 The Self-existence, the Eternity, 

from nothing, as for a derived being to cre- 
ate itself. 

. And there never will come a time when 
he shall cease to be. God is from everlast- 
ing to everlasting. If we could compre** 
hend the mode of the divine existence, we 
should no doubt see the necessity of its du- 
ration, and that it is an impossibility and 
a contradiction that a self^existent being 
should ever cease to exist And, low and 
imperfect as our notions of self-existence 
are, yet from the idea of absolute indepen- 
dence we may certainly infer the perma- 
nence of the divine existence. For if God 
could cease to be, there must be a cause ade- 
quate to the effect, and upon that cause 
God must be dependent, and therefore 
could not be self-existent. The very idea, 
therefore, of the annihilation of a self-ex- 
istent being is an absurdity, it is a contra- 
diction in terms. 

It must, however, be acknowledged, that 
great difficulties attend every notioa that 
we can form of the eternity of Grod. We 

and the Immutability of God. 429 

always conceive of eternity as indefinite 
duration, divided into two equal portions 
by the present instant ; the former of which, 
the eternity past, is continually receiving 
additions without any increase ; the latter, 
the eternity to come, is continually losing 
successive portions without any diminution. 
This is a plain contradiction. Again, if this 
notion of eternity were correct, it might 
reasonably be argued, that as one half of 
eternity is already past, every instant of 
which was once present, the remaining half 
might also pass away, and eternity itself 
come to an end : a conclusion than which 
nothing can be more absurd. 

But these difficulties and apparent incon- 
sistencies are entirely owing to the finite* 
ness of human nature, and its utter incapa- 
city to comprehend an infinite subject. 
And be it remembered that these difficulties 
are not peculiar to theism. The atheist, 
who maintains the eternity of an atom, is as 
open to objections from this quarter as the 
theist who believes in the eternity of God : 

430 The Self-amtence, the Eternity, 

and this in addition to all the objectioDs 
which are peculiar to atheism as such. 

In truth, our idea of duration is derived 
entirely from the succession of our own 
idea, and is identified with that succession. 
The quality, therefore, of successive dura- 
tion cannot apply to a being, all whose 
ideas are at once present to his mind. Such 
a being is God. His perfect knowledge 
comprehends at one glance all things past, 
present, and to come, so that no new idea 
can ever enter into the divine mind, and no 
idea which ever existed there can be lost, or 
overlooked, or forgotten. To the Supreme 
Being, therefore, the notion of successive 
duration is very improperly applied. And 
many reflecting persons have judged, that 
the Supreme Being occupies eternity as he 
occupies space, that it is to him perpetually 
instantaneous — that things past, present, 
and to come, are equally co-existent in the 
divine mind, so that things which are not 
are as though they were. 

He fills his own immortal NOW, 
And sees our ages waste. 

and the Immutability of God. 431 

And this is very consonant to those re- 
presentations of the eternity of God which 
are contained in the prophetic scriptures of 
the Old and New Testament, where the 
Supreme Being often represents himself as 
having actually performed that which was 
still future, and perhaps many ages distant; 
by which it is intended to represent the 
certainty, and his own clear and distinct 
foreknowledge of the event In a similar 
manner our Lord interprets the declaration 
of God to Moses, as a proof of the resurrec- 
tion of the dead: " I am the God of Abra- 
ham, and the God of Isaac, and the God 
of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead, 
but the God of the living." Not that these 
venerable patriarchs were then alive- They 
had for ages been sleeping in their tomb. 
But God, foreseeing that at the destined 
period they would most certainly be released 
from the dark prison of the grave, regards 
this glorious event as actually present : in 
his view they are still living, for all live to 
him and in his decree ; and therefore he is 
not ashamed to be called their God, as he 

432 The Self-existence^ the Etetmity, 

will ultimately, and at the destined period, 
fulfil his promise to the utmost extent, and 
not one iota of his good words shall fall to 
the ground. Thus it is, that in the sight of 
the Lord one day is as a thousand years, 
and a thousand years is as one day. 

We cannot, indeed, form any conception 
of a perpetually instantaneous eternity, any 
more than we can of self-existence, because 
we have nothing analogous to it in our own 
minds, for our own ideas being in a perpe- 
tual flux, our notions of duration are neces- 
sarily fleeting and successive. 

From the eternal existence of God we 
certainly infer his power of acting from eter- 

Many think that the Supreme Being 
must necessarily have existed alone, from 
eternity, before it was in his power to create 
a world, or even an atom ; and they seem 
to imagine that he dwelt in a sort of soli- 
tary state, contemplating his own perfec- 
tions, and delighting in himself, and in the 
foreknowledge of all the good which he 
had determined in the revolution of ages to 

and the Immutability of God. 433 

accomplish/ but without communicating 
happiness to a single individual. This ap- 
pears to me to be an unworthy representa- 
tion of the greatest, the best of beings. If 
God existed from eternity, it must have 
been in his power to act from eternity : for 
his power being eternal, the exercise of it 
must by possibility be eternal, for a power 
which cannot be exercised is no power at 
all. And the difficulty of conceiving of an 
eternal production of power, is no greater 
than that of conceiving of the eternity of 
the divine existence. It amounts only to 
this, that a finite being cannot comprehend 
infinity. If, indeed, it were contended that 
any effect existed prior to its cause, the 
contradiction would be glaring. But that 
eternal power and wisdom should produce 
an eternal effect, can never be proved im- 
possible. If God could not from all eter- 
nity, have produced an effect, I would ask 
when that period of duration came that he 
acquired the power of exerting his original 
power, and how this great acquisition of 
power came into the possession of the su- 

VOL. II. 2 F 

434 The Self -existence, the Eternity^ 

preme immutable Spirit ? Moreover, it is 
acknowledged, without dispute, that the 
purposes of God are the result of his coun- 
sels : also, that from all eternity, upon the 
prescience of all possible events, his wisdom 
fixed upon or decreed the production of 
that system which would be most worthy 
of himself, and which would comprehend 
the greatest sum of virtue and happiness. 
But if the decrees of God are co-existent 
with his counsels, then may the acts of his 
omnipotence be co-existent with his de- 
crees, for the difficulty is no greater in one 
case than in the other. 

No reasonable doubt, therefore, can ex- 
ist that the Divine Being, if such had been 
his pleasure, might have exerted his power 
from eternity in the production of an infi- 
nite number and variety of effects : and 
though we have express revelation of the 
fact, and the speculation is beyond the 
reach of the human mind, yet when we 
take into consideration the infinite power 
and infinite benevolence of God, we can 
hardly hesitate to conclude that he began 

and the Immutability of God. A35 

to exert his goodness, and to communicate 
happiness, from the earliest date of duration, 
that is, from ail eternity. And we can by 
no means reconcile ourselves to the thought, 
that an infinitely benevolent and active 
being should have existed from eternity in 
solitary state, vt^ithout exerting one act of 
power, without communicating one particle 
of happiness. 

From the self-existence of God we also 
infer his immutabitity. For whatever God 
i% he is originally and independently. But 
if his essence, or his attributes, admitted 
change, he must to that extent depend upon 
the came of that change, whether external 
or internal, and so far he would cease to be 
independent. Whatever, therefore, the 
Supreme Being now is, he always was, and 
ever will be the same — ** the Father of 
Lights, without variableness or shadow of 
a change.'' " I am Jehovah,'' saith he, " I 
change not." The word Jehovah signifies 
existence or essence ; it is used with great 
propriety through the Hebrew scriptures as 
the peculiar name of God. It implies that 

436 The Sdf -existence, the Eternity, 

He is the only being who can be properly 
said to exist. He possesses an absolute 
plenitude of being. All other existence is 
derived, precarious, and dependent But 
God is the being who is. 

The name which God assumes to himself 
in the burning bush, is equally expressive 
of the perfection of his existence and the 
immutability of his nature, his attributes, 
his purposes, and his promises. 1 am that 
1 AM, literally, I will bb what I will be. 
" Go thou, and say to the children of Is- 
rael, 1 AM hath sent me unto you." Exod. 

From all that has been said, we learn 
the incomprehensibility of the Supreme 

God is great, and we know him not. 
And it is our duty at all times, and upon 
all occasions, to think and speak of him 
with the profoundest veneration and re- 
verence. It is at the same time a source of 
exquisite satisfaction, amidst the vicissitudes 
of human affairs, the lapse of years, the 
waste of time, and the ravages of death, to 

and the Immutability of God. 437 

reflect that the being who presides over 
and governs all still lives, that his attributes 
and purposes are immutable, and that no- 
thing can defeat the accomplishment of his 
wise and benevolent purposes. His coun- 
sel shall stand. 



Isaiah, xiiL 19. 

And BabjfhHt the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the 
Chaldees* excellency, shall be as when Cod overthrew 
Sodom and Gomorrha. 

Of the prophecies which are scattered 
through the books of the Old Testament, 
and which attest the divine authority of the 
mosaic institute, the next in point of preci- 
sion and importance to those which relate 
to the Messiah, and to the events which 
should happen to the Jewish nation, are 
prophecies which announce the capture 
and the utter destruction of Babylon : the 
correspondence of which predictions with 
the events announced by them, it is my 
present purpose briefly to illustrate, and to 
point out some useful inferences which may 
be deduced from them. 

The FaU ^f Babylon, ^. 439 

If the detail of the event had been con- 
tained in the book which records the pre- 
diction, or if the narrative bad been drawn 
up for the express purpose of illustrating 
the accomplishment of the prophecy, by 
some historian of the Hebrew nation, there 
might have been some room to suspect col- 
lusion, some plausible pretext to say, that 
the historian has given a colour to his facts, 
in order to support the credit of the pro- 
phecy, or that possibly the prediction was 
forged after the event. 

In the present case, this objection is 
wholly precluded. The denunciations of 
the Jewish prophets were delivered long 
before the event. Jeremiah prophesied 
seventy years, and Isaiah two hundred 
years before Babylon was besieged : and 
the catastrophe which these prophets fore- 
tel was, at the time when they uttered the 
oracles, in the highest degree unlooked for 
and improbable. The historian of the event 
is Herodotus, the most ancient of the Greek 
historians, who had himself visited the spot, 
and Xenophon, the disciple and biographer 

440 The FaU of Babylon, 

of Socrates, the most eminent of the Athe- 
nian philosophers, and a great general, who 
was also the friend and ally of the younger 
Cyrus; and who possessed the best means 
of information. And it is highly probable 
that neither of these historians had either 
seen or heard of the Hebrew prophecies, or 
would have thought them in any degree 
worthy of the slightest attention, although 
in their respective histories they relate the 
accomplishment of them almost to their 
minutest detail. 

I propose to give a mccmct account of the 
city of Babylon — to relate the history of its 
fail — to shew how completely and how li- 
terally the Jewish prophecies were fuelled in 
this event — and to offer a few rejections 
upon the subject. 

Babylon was the largest and the most 
magnificent city which ever existed. It 
was raised to its highest glory by Nebuchad- 
nezzar, though its foundation was laid by 
one of his remote predecessors. From ac- 
counts transmitted by ancient historians, 
it appears to have occupied an immense 

the Accomplishment of Prophecy. 441 

square, each side of which was eight miles 
in length, so that the area inclosed was 
sixty-four square miles. It was enclosed 
by a stupendous wall, which, some say, was 
two hundred feet in height, and fifty in 
breadth. The more moderate and probable 
computation is, that it was between seventy 
and eighty feet in height, and between 
thirty and forty in breadth. In this wall 
were one hundred gates of solid brass. The 
river Euphrates ran through the midst of 
the city, more than two fathoms in depth, 
and a quarter of a mile broad. It was em- 
banked with very high and thick walls, to 
prevent it from overflowing the city. And 
at regular intervals were brazen gates, 
which opened to the river, and which at 
night were constantly shut and guarded. 
The celebrated hanging gardens of Babylon 
were formed by an immense artificial 
mount, elevated upon tiers of arches fifty 
cubits high. They were supported by 
twenty walls : they covered three acres and 
a half of ground, and were adorned with 
the loftiest trees, and with every species of 

442 The Fall of BahyUm, 

ornamental flowers and shrubs. The tem- 
ple of Bekis was a magnificent structure, 
which, for its astonishing magnitude, was 
reckoned one of the wonders of the ancient 
world, and was used partly for astronomi- 
cal, and partly for idolatrous purposes. The 
wealth of it was so great, that when it was 
plundered by Xerxes, returning from bis 
unsuccessful expedition into Greece, the 
spoil of it was computed to amount to up- 
wards of twenty millions sterling.* 

Such are the representations which his- 
torians of the best credit make of that stu- 
pendous city, which is described by the 
prophet as the glory of kingdoms, and the 
beauty of the Chaldees* excellency. 

With regard to the decline and fall of 
this celebrated city, we are informed that 
Cyrus, king of Persia, after having carried 
on a war of twenty years with the succes- 
sive emperors of Babylon, at last laid siege 
to the city itself, and blockaded it with a 
vast army of Medes, Persians, and their 
auxiliaries. The inhabitants, confiding in 
^ See Rennell's Oeograplrf ofHerodoioB. 

the Accomplishment of Prophecy. 443 

the strength of their impregnable ramparts, 
and the immense supply of provisions with 
which the city was filled, scouted the at- 
tempt, and insulted the besiegers from the 
walls ; till Cyrus, having wasted two years 
before the city, and finding it impracti- 
cable to gain possession of it by the usual 
methods of war, devised a bold and unpre- 
cedented stratagem, which succeeded to 
his utmost wish and expectation. He 
caused a vast number of wide and deep 
trenches to be opened in the vicinity of the 
river ; and, on the evening of a great an- 
nual festival, when he knew that the inha- 
bitants would be unsuspicious of danger, 
and immersed in riot and revelling, he 
turned the stream of the Euphrates into 
these trenches, and having thus made a 
fordable passage through the bed of the 
river, under the guidance of two noblemen, 
whom the tyranny of the king of Babylon 
had provoked to revolt, his troops were led 
on directly to the palace, the brazen gates 
of the river having been left open by the 
negligence of the guards, and cutting to 

444 The Fall of Babylon, 

pieces the emperor's guards, who were 
taken by surprise, they slew the monarch 
himself, fighting valiantly amidst his nobles, 
and thus put an end to the dynasty of Ne- 
buchadnezzar, and to the Babylonian em- 
pire. • From this time Babylon ceased to 
be a royal residence, and declined from its 
glory more rapidly than it bad advanced 
to it. 

I shall now produce the solemn denun- 
ciations of the Jewish prophets against this 
magnificent city, and shall give those of 
Isaiah in the translation of Dr. Lowth, the 
late bishop of London, and those of Jere- 
miah, in the version of the late Dr. Blayney, 
professor of Arabic in the university of 

In the first place it is foretold, that Ba- 
bylon shall be punished for her pride and 
cruelty, Isaiah, xlvii. 6, 8. " I was angry 
with my people, I profaned my inherit- 
ance, and I gave them up into their hand. 
Thou didst not show mercy unto them; 
even upon the aged thou didst grievously 
aggravate the weight of thy yoke. And 

the Accomplishment of Prophecy. 445 

thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever, be- 
cause thou didst not attentively consider 
these things. Thou didst not think on 
what was in the end to befall thee. But 
hear now this, O thou voluptuous city, 
thou that sittest in security. Thou that 
say est in thy heart I am, and there is none 
else. I shall not sit a widow, I shall not 
know the loss of children. Yet shall these 
things come upon thee in a moment, the 
loss of children and widowhood, on a sud- 
den shall they come upon thee." 

The nations are named by which this 
great achievement would be effected. Isa. 
xiii. 17, 18. " Behold I raise up against 
them the Medes, who shall hold silver of 
no account, and as for gold they shall not 
delight in it; their bows shall dash the 
young men ; their eye shall have no pity 
even on the children." Ch. xxi. 2. *' The 
plunderer is plundered : the destroyer is 
destroyed. Gro up, O Elam, i. e. Persia, 
form the siege, O Media." It is to be ob- 
served, that when Isaiah wrote his prophe- 

446 The FaU of Babylon, 

cy, which was two hundred yean before 
the event, Babylon was only rising to its 
glory, and the Medes and Persians were a 
very inconsiderable people, hardly known 
among the nations. They afterwards be- 
came a very warlike and powerful nation, 
celebrated forthe numberand the prowess of 
their cavalry, for their skill in archery, and 
for the size and strength of their brazen 

That the Medes and Persians were to be 
the instruments of divine Providence, in 
the conquest and destruction of Babylon, 
is also repeatedly and explicitly foretold 
by the prophet Jeremiah, chap. L and li. 

This prophet also foretels, that a Jong 
war shall precede the capture and destruc- 
tion of Babylon. Jer, li. 45, 46. '* Go ye 
forth out of the midst of her, my people. 
And save ye every one his own life, be- 
cause of the fierce anger of Jehovah. And 
lest your heart faint, and ye be afraid be- 
cause of the rumour heard in the land ; for 
* See Xenophon's Anab. I. 3; Cyrop. 1. 5. 

the Accomplishment af Prophecy. 447 

the rumour shall come in a year; and in a 
year after that the rumour, and violence in 
the land, ruler against ruler/' 

The very time is fixed when the destruc« 
tion of Babylon should take place ; and 
the captivity of the Jews should cease. Jer. 
XXV. 11, 12. '' And this whole land shall 
become a desolation and an astonishment ; 
and these nations shall serve the king of 
Babylon seventy years : And it shall come 
to pass when seventy years are accom- 
plished, that I will visit upon the king of 
Babylon and upon his nation, saith Jeho- 
vah, their iniquity, and upon the land of 
Chaldea, and I will make it a perpetual 

The prince, who was ordained to con- 
duct the hostile armies against Babylon, is 
expressly named by the prophet Isaiah, a 
hundred and fifty years before he was born. 
Isaiah, xliv. 28 ; xlv. 1-4. '' Who saith to 
Cyrus, Thou art my shepherd, and he shall 
fulfil all my pleasure. Who saith to Jeru- 
salem, Thou shalt be built; and to the 
temple. Thy foundation shall belaid. Thus 

448 The Fall of Babylon, 

saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, 
whom I hold fast by the right liand, that I 
may subdue nations before him, and ungird 
the loins of kings ; I will go before thee 
and make the mountains level ; the valves 
of brass will I break asunder, and the bars 
of irons will I hew down. That thou 
mayest know that I am Jehovah : he that 
calleth thee by thy name, the God of Is- 
rael. For the sake of my servant Jacob, 
and of Israel my chosen ; I have even 
called thee by thy name ; I have sumamed 
thee, though thou knowest me not/' 

It is foretold that the destruction of Ba- 
bylon shall be sudden and unexpected. Jer. 
li. 8. '' Babylon is suddenly fallen and 
broken." Isai. xlvii. 11. " Destruction 
shall come upon thee suddenly, o{ which 
thou shalt have no apprehension." 

It is predicted that the city shall be taken 
by stratagem. Isai. 1. 24. '^ I have laid a 
snare for thee, and thou hast also been 
caught, O Babylon, when thou wast not 
aware. Thou hast been met with and also 
taken by surprise, because thou hast con- 

the Accomplishment of Prophecy. - 449 

tended against Jehovah." Cb. li. 31, 32. 
" Courier shall run to meet courier, and 
messenger to meet messenger, to acquaint 
the king of Babylon that hi^ city is taken 
from end to end ; and the passages are sur- 
prised ; and the porches they have burned 
with fire ; and the men of war are stricken 
with terror/' 

It is further denounced that the city 
shall be taken by the drying up of her river. 
Jer. 1. 38. " A sword is upon her waters, 
and they shall be dried up." Ch, li. 5Q. 
'* Therefore, thus saith Jehovah, I will plead 
thy cause, and 1 will avenge thy wrongs ; 
and I will dry up her sea ; and I will make 
her springs dry." 

It is foretold that Babylon should be 
captured during a season of festivity and 
riot. Jer. li. 39. '' In their heat I will 
supply them with drink ; and I will make 
them drunk that they may exult, and sleep 
an everlasting sleep, and not awake again, 
saith Jehovah." Comp. v. 57, 58. 

The astonishment, the horror, ^nd the 
miserable fate of the cruel and perfidious 

VOL. II. 2 G 

450 The Fall of Babylon, 

tyrant of this devoted city is portrayed 
by the prophet Isaiah in a sublime ode, 
chap, xiv., in which, by a bold and impres- 
sive prosopopoeia, he represents Hades, or 
the Grave, under the image of a mighty 
monarch, summoning all the great and 
honourable ones of the earth to issue forth 
from the vast and gloomy receptacle of 
death, to meet and to upbraid the fallen 
despot Ver. 9-11. " Hades from beneath 
is moved because of thee, to meet thee at 
thy coming. He rouses for thee the mighty 
dead, all the great chiefs of the earth ; he 
makes to rise up from their thrones all the 
kings of the nations. All of them shall ac- 
cost thee and shall say unto thee. Art thou, 
even thou too, become v^eak as we ? Art 
thou made like unto us ? Is then thy pride 
brought down to the grave ? the sound of 
thy sprightly instruments? Is the vermin 
become thy couch? and the earth-worm 
thy covering ?" 

The prophet afterwards introduces a 
company of persons, who, having found 
the body of the king of Babylon mingled 

the Accomplishment of Prophecy. 451 

among the heaps of the slain, and having 
with difficulty recognized his person, insult 
over him with bitter taunts and invectives. 
Ver. 16.20, "Those that see thee shall look 
attentively at thee ; they shall well consi- 
der thee : Is this the man that made the 
earth to tremble? that shook the king- 
doms ? that made the world like a desert ? 
that destroyed cities ? that never dismissed 
his captives to their home ? All the kings 
of the nations, all of them lie down in 
glory, each in his own sepulchre, but thou 
art cast out of the grave as the tree abomi- 
nated, as a trodden carcase, thou shalt not 
be joined to them in burial." 

Lastly. It is predicted concerning Ba- 
bylon, that the city should be left desolate. 
that it should be totally deserted by its in- 
habitants, that the ground upon which it 
stood should become a wild and dreary 
morass, frequented by loathsome, noxious, 
and venomous animals, and, finally, -'that 
this vast, powerful, and magnificent city 
should be so completely exterminated, that 
the very situation of it should be forgotten, 

452 The Fall of Babylon, 

Isaiah, xiii. 19-22. '' And Babylon, she 
that was the beauty of kingdoms, the glory 
of the pride of the Chaldeans, shall become 
as the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrha 
by the hand of Grod. It shall not be inha- 
bited for ever, nor shall it be dwelt in from 
generation to generation ; neither shall the 
Arabian pitch his tent there ; neither shall 
the shepherds make their folds there. But 
there shall the wild beasts of the desert 
lodge; and howling monsters shall fill 
their houses ; and there shall the daugh- 
ters of the ostrich dwell ; and there shall 
the satyrs hold their revels. And wolves 
shall howl to one another in their palaces, 
and dragons in their voluptuous pavilions; 
and her time is near to come, and her days 
shall not be prolonged.'' 

Jer. li. 42-44. '* How is Babylon become 
an astonishment among the nations I The sea 
is come up over Babylon; ,with the multitude 
of its waves is she covered: Her cities are be- 
come a desolation, a land of drought, and a 
zdldeniess : no man shall dwell in them, nei- 
ther shall a son of man pass through them. 

the Accomplishinent of Prophecy. 453 

And 1 mil execute Judgment upon Bel in Ba- 
bylon ; and nations shall notfiock to him any 
more. The wall also of Babylon is fallen.'' 
Isaiah, xiv. 22, 23. '* For Izmll arise against 
them, saith Jehovah, God of hosts, and I 
will cut off from Babylon the name and 
the remnant, and the son, and the son's 
son, saith Jehovah ; and I will make it an 
inheritance for the porcupine and pools of 
water; and T will plunge it in the miry 
gulf of destruction, saith Jehovah God of 

This alarming denunciation of woe is ra- 
tified by a solemn oath. Isaiah, xiv. 24. 
*' Jehovah God of hosts has sworn, saying, 
Surely as I have devised so shall it be, and 
as I have purposed that thing shall stand." 

Nor is it possible that any prophecy 
could have been more literally^ or more 
completely fulfilled, in every particular, 
than the denunciations of the Jewish pro- 
phets have been, and still are, in the catas- 
trophe of this once haughty, magnificent, 
and oppressive city. 

Gyrus having diverted the course of the 

454 The FaU of Babylon, 

Euphrates in order to make himself master 
of the city, the river never returned back 
to its proper channel ; but overflowing tbe 
country more and more, the vicinity of Ba* 
bylon gradually became a vast and ud* 
wholesome morass ; and the city itself not 
being favoured by the kings of Persia, fell 
into decay. Darius Hystaspes, to punish 
the Babylonians for a revoJt, lowered the 
walls of the city, took down its gates, and 
put many of the inhabitants to the sword. 
Xerxes having been disappointed in his in- 
vasion of Greece, wreaked his revenge upon 
Babylon, plundering and demolishing the 
temples of the idols, and thus fulfilling the 
prophecy, *' I will punish Bel in Babylon.'* 
The cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon being 
built in its vicinity, in situations more 
healthy and advantageous, drained Baby- 
lon of its inhabitants. Pausanias, who lived 
in the second century, relates, that " of Ba- 
bylon, the greatest city which the sun ever 
saw, there was nothing remaining but the 
walls/' Jerome, who lived in the fourth 
century, says, that the whole inclosure of 

the Accomplishment of Prophecy. 455 

the walls of Babylon was actually convert- 
ed into a chase for wild beasts, which were 
kept there for the diversion of the kings of 
Persia. Benjamin of Tudela, a Jewish tra- 
veller of the tenth century, reports, that in 
his time some walls were standing, but so 
full of venomous and noxious animals, that 
it was very dangerous to approach them. 
And at this day, so literally, so completely 
have the divine predictions been fulfilled, 
so totally has every fragment been swept 
away with the besom of destruction, that 
whatever probable conjectures may be 
formed, no vestige remains from which the 
modern traveller can with precision ascer- 
tain, that here once stood the magnificent 
city of Babylon, the glory of nations, and 
the pride of the whole earth.* 

The prophecies concerning the fall of 
Babylon, in connexion with the events by 
which they were accomplished, suggest 
many useful reflexions. 

* The ruins of this great and celebrated city have, of 
late years, been ascertained with tolerable accuracy. See 
Major RennelPs Geography of Herodotus, p. S50. 

456 The Fall of Babylon, ^ 

1. Hence we may infer the certainty, the 
precision, and the extent of the divine fore- 

In these prophecies a great number of 
events are foretold which depend upon the 
volitions of intelligent and moral agents : a 
prince is announced by name many years 
before his birth, as the conqueror of Baby- 
lon and the deliverer of Israel ; and the 
utter destruction and desolation of this 
great city was foretold two hundred years 
before the event, and at a time when the 
accomplishment of the prediction was in 
the highest degree improbable. What is 
the natural, inevitable conclusion, from 
facts of this nature so clearly established ? 
Surely this. That God sees the end from 
the beginning ; and from former times the 
things which are not yet done. That his 
all-comprehending view includes all events 
which are to come, as well as those which 
are present or passed. The foreknowledge 
of God is one of the brightest prerogatives 
of his divinity ; one of the most awful attri- 
butes of his nature. To deny it, is to rob 

the Accomplishment of Prophecy. ^51 

the Supreme Being of the glory of his per- 
fections, and it involves a train of the most 
distressing consequences. 

2. The prophecies of the Old Testament 
demonstrate the divine commission of those 
by whom they were delivered, and also the 
divine origin of the Jewish dispensation. 

The prophecies announcing the fall of 
Babylon were delivered many years before 
the event, at a time when Babylon was in 
her glory, and when nothing was more im- 
probable than the event foretold, and the 
predictions contain many circumstances 
which no human sagacity could have fore- 
seen. We have also ample historical evi- 
dence that the event came to pass in exact 
conformity with the prediction. Part of 
the prophecy indeed, the total destruction 
of every remnant of that great city is ac- 
complishing at this day; and of the rest 
we have the unexceptionable testimony of 
two Greek historians, Herodotus and Xe- 
nophon, who were both in all probability 
ignorant, if not of the existence of the Jew- 
ish nation, at least of their sacred books, 

458 The Fall of Babylon, 

and recorded prophecies. If we admit 
these facts, it is impossible to deny the 
conclusion that Issdah and Jeremiah were 
inspired prophets. And as the object of 
their mission was to confirm the Jewish 
dispensation, and to reclaim the apostate 
Jews to the worship and service of the true 
Jehovah, as prescribed by the law of Mo- 
ses, the argument from these prophecies in 
favour of thie divine original of tbe Jewish 
Institute is irresistible. 

3. We learn the interesting and momen*^ 
tons truth, that a wise, and powerful, and 
righteous Providence orders and governs 
the world. 

We learn that there is a Providence ex- 
ercised over the affairs of men, and that 
the world is not left to the direction of fate 
and chance. God is j udge ; * he setteth up 
one and putteth down another. His pro- 
vidence extends, not only to nations and 
large communities, but to families and in- 
dividuals. He calleth Cyrus by name, and 
girdeth him with strength, and employeth 
him as the instrument of fulfilling his great 

the Accomplishment of Prophecy. 459 

designs^ though Cyrus knoweth him not 
It is equally easy to the Divine Mind, which 
pervades all nature, and is present in all 
worlds, to superintend the concerns of indi- 
viduals, as well as those of nations and em- 
pires : nor are the former more beneath his 
notice than the latter ; for in his sight all 
nations are as the drop of the bucket, and 
the small dust of the balance. 

We are likewise taught, by the review 
of these amazing transactions, to acknow- 
ledge the infinite wisdom of divine Provi- 
dence, which is never at a loss for expe- 
dients to execute its purposes, and which, 
upon a full and comprehensive survey of all 
events which can possibly come to pass, 
invariably selects and brings to pass the 
fittest and the best. 

The fall of Babylon, in connexion with 
the distinct prediction of that calamitous 
event, affords an affecting display of the om- 
nipotence of Grod. 

'' Is not this,'' said the haughty monarch, 
" is not this the great Babylon which I 

460 The Fall of Babyhn, 

have built for myself?*' But how was his 
pride cast down in a moment, when the 
voice from heaven declared, " O king, thy 
glory is departed from thee." Nor could 
Babylon herself continue when her ap- 
pointed hour was come. For what power 
can oppose the will of the Most High? 
Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds 
of the earth, but who ever hardened himself 
against God and prospered ? His agency 
can render the meanest instrument effica- 
cious for the production of the most extra- 
ordinary effects. Where the Almighty 
gives a commission, he supplies strength 
for the execution of the charge : and the 
feeblest agent shall be all-powerful in his 
hand. When Isaiah prophesied, no nations 
were of less account than the Medes and 
Persians, yet these were the people which 
God singles out by name to destroy the 
pride of Babylon. And in due time he 
summons them to the field : he arms their 
warriors : he commissions their captains : 
he leads them to the field, and he crowns 

the Accomplishment of Prophecy. 461 

their enterprize with success. Thus does 
he hide pride from man^ and thus ^hen he 
judges he will overcome. 

Hence, likewise, we learn the righteous- 
ness of God, and the certainty and severity of 
the doom which awaits the impenitent and 
the incorrigible. 

Babylon goes on prosperously long after 
her fall was predicted, and the warrant had 
been issued for her destruction. . But the 
day of reckoning came at last, and every 
word of terror was literally fulfilled. Let 
nations which, like Babylon in the hour of 
her insolence, harden themselves, in their 
iniquity, hear and tremble : and let them 
eschew her character, if they would escape 
her doom. 

Further, the subject beautifully illustrates 
the faithfulness and the goodness of God. 
How safely, how cheerfully, may the hum- 
ble and the pious rely upon his providence 
and his promises ! 

The despised Jews are carried captive 
by the tyrant of Babylon, they appear to 
be forsaken by God and man, the sport 

signs, ne counts their 

sincere and deep rep 

due time stand forth 

A powerful prince s 

fight their battles, au 

or even knowing it, he 

strument of divine F 

their enemies, and to 

country, to their tem 

and their religion. A 

prove to the humble 

season of bitter distres 

tion, earnestly implore 

ration. He will not 

Jacob, seek ye my fac< 

4. Let us wait in th< 

feith and cheerful exm 

the Accomplishment of Prophecy. 463 

prophecies of which it was the object, would 
naturally encourage the faith of the pious 
Jews, who were witnesses to that extraor- 
dinary event, in the future accomplishment 
of the prophecies which announced the ad- 
vent of the Messiah, that great prophet 
whom Jehovah had promised to raise up 
like unto Moses, and of whom a general 
expectation prevailed, at the time and in 
the place of his appearance. And these 
prophecies have long since received their 
proper accomplishment So also have 
many which were delivered by Christ and 
his apostles : those, in particular, which 
foretold the rapid and extensive propaga- 
tion of the gospel, the destruction of Jeru- 
salem and the temple, and the early corr 
ruptions of the christian doctrine. We 
cannot desire a better foundation upon 
which to build our expectations of the 
eventual accomplishment, in their proper 
season, of those prophecies which relate to 
events that are still future. 

There is a Babylon which still exists, a 
spiritual Babylon, which has, to many of 

464 The Fall of BabtfUm, 

the servants of God and the advocates for 
truth, been a house of bondage and oppres- 
sion. Against this Babylon woes are de- 
nounced, similar to those against the city 
which once bore that name. And these 
shall in due time be executed to their ut- 
most extent, and in their severest import. 
Let us, then, look forward with joyful ex- 
pectation to the period wliich is already 
fixed in the councils of Heaven, and is pro- 
bably not very far distant, when Babylon 
the great, the mother of harlots and abomi- 
nations, shall utterly fall, as a millstone 
cast into the sea, to rise no more. But let 
us, at the same time, remember that while 
we anticipate with delight the predicted 
extermination of the corruptions of Chris- 
tianity, wherever they are found to exist, 
we mean no ill to the persons of those, who 
through unavoidable prepossessions, or from 
other causes, are entangled in them ; and 
that we hold in the deepest abhorrence the 
too general practice of abridging civil rights 
upon no other pretence but their supposed 
religious error. 

the Accomplishment of Prophecy. 465 

Again, it is declared, by the sure word 
of prophecy, that all the nations of the 
earth shall become the kingdoms of the 
Lord, and of his Messiah; and that when 
the fulness of the Gentiles is brought in, 
God will have respect to his ancient people, 
and all Israel shall be saved. Of the times 
and seasons when these glorious predictions 
shall be accomplished we have no know- 
ledge; but that they will eventually be 
brought to pass in their largest and most 
glorious extent, we can entertain no doubt 

Hail, auspicious day, when Jesus shall 
take to himself his great power, and reign! 
When the just and equitable dominion of 
the Prince of Peace shall extend over the 
whole inhabited globe, and the knowledge 
of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the 
waters cover the seas ! Hasten, O Lord, 
this triumphant period, and speedily ac- 
complish the number of thine elect ! Amen. 

VOL. II. 2 H 

LlllJj ZX\^ jlJ vrx Alt 


Matt, xxv 

And^lol I am ttith you alwa 

The great fact upon wh 
of Christianity rests, is 
Jesus from the dead; 
Paul justly observes, if 
then is our preaching v 
is also vain ; and the 
asleep in Christ, relyiu] 
that the dead should risi 
tality, are lost for ever. 

Cessation of Miraculous Powers, ^. 467 

the splendid miracle which is this day de* 
servedly and joyfully commemorated by 
the whole christian church, the descent of 
the Holy Spirit upon the day of Pentecost, 
the communication of miraculous gifts and 
powers to the apostles, and to the first 
teachers of the christian doctrine, by which 
they were amply qualified to preach the 
glad tidings of salvation faithfully, power-^ 
fully, and successfully through the world. 

The resurrection of Jesus was a private 
miracle. And it may perhaps be admitted 
that the testimony of twelve competent 
witnesses, who could not be deceived them- 
selves, and who could have no motive to 
impose upon others, would be sufficient to 
convince the wise, and to satisfy the unpre- 
judiced and the impartial. But this, in the 
present case, was not enough. The atten- 
tion of the multitude was to be roused, and 
in a manner compelled to the subject, and 
the obduracy of deeply-rooted and invete- 
rate prejudice was to be overcome. It was 
not enough that here and there a philoso- 
pher became a proselyte, who might, by 
2 h2 

468 Cessation of Miraculous, Powers 

calm reasoning and persuasive eloquenecr 
convert the few pupils who frequented their 
schools : it had been promised to the Mes-^ 
siah, as the reward of his sufferings (Isaiah, 
liii.), that by his doctrine he should justify 
many, and that many, the many, the mass 
of mankind, should be given to him as a 
portion. The great end of the mission of 
Christ could not be accompl^ished unless 
myriads were converted to the faith, and a 
nation born in a day- For the blessings of 
the gospel were to be extended to all man- 
kind. None were excluded who were wil- 
ling to accept the offered mercy. But 
general attention could only be excited by 
miracles such as the apostles and their first 
converts were empowered to perform. These 
were numerous and various : they were 
performed in public before thousands of 
witnesses : they could not be denied : they 
could not be called in question : and they 
were avowedly wrought in the name of 
Jesus, by power derived from him, and for 
the advancement of his religion. If these 
miracles were real facts, Jesus was alive. 

after the Age of the Apostles. 469 

The conclusion could not be resisted. It 
has, indeed, never been questioned. No 
man ever did or could believe in the exis- 
tence of the apostoHc miracles, and at the 
same time deny, or even doubt, that Jesus 
rose from the dead. 

And the truth of this important fact, that 
the apostles performed miracles in the name 
of Jesus, and that they communicated mi- 
raculous powers to their immediate con- 
verts, is substantiated by evidence which, I 
do not hesitate to say, is as strongs or even 
stronger than that of any other fact upon 
historical record. 

In the first place, we have direct historic 
cat proof the testimony of competent and 
credible historians, who relate with the 
most artless simplicity what they them- 
selves saw and heard, and whose testimony 
is unimpeachable. We have also what 
may properly be called philosophical m- 
dence of the fact, arguing from the effect 
to the cause. The early, rapid, and exten- 
sive progress of the christian religion is a 
fact which cannot be disputed. It is attested 


luPLuiA VI tiie clirist; 

assigns — a cause adequj 

its circumstances probal 

holy spirit to Christ an. 

miraculous powers whi 

the signal miracles whic 

and the communication 

powers to the primitive 

these facts, and you have 

factory solution of the pi 

ficulty vanishes, and the ( 

cess of the christian doctri 

surprise. Deny them, ai 

and confusion : a great c 

without any sufficient caui 

and extensive diffusion of 

ligion, the zeal with whi 

after the Age of the Apostles. 47 1 

For as the christian doctrine was hostile to 
all the prejudices, the habits, the passions, 
and the temporal interests of mankind, and 
as it was unsupported either by the civil or 
the military power, by the philosopher or 
the priest, no other way remains to account 
for this extraordinary fact, but that cause 
which Christians in all ages have uniformly 
assigned, and which their adversaries have 
never been able to disprove, the existence 
of miraculous powers in the apostolic church. 
The hand of the Lord was with them, and 
therefore multitudes believed, and turned 
unto the Lord. 

But we have better evidence stiU. The 
epistles of Paul, the genuineness of which 
has never been called in question, and 
which we may receive with as much credit 
as if we had actually seen the apostle write, 
or heard him speak. These epistles were 
addressed to those who had been converted 
by him from heathen idolatry or Jewish 
prejudice, to the christian faith, and who 
had once admired, revered, and loved him, 
as their spiritual father, their faithful, aflfec- 

472 Cessation of Miracuhus Powers 

tioDate, and inspired instructor^ but who 
had since been alienated from him, and 
prejudiced against him, who now enter- 
tained doubts of his apostolical authority, 
and had apostatized, if not from the prof^is- 
SLon, at least from the spirit of the gospel. 
In these epistles, the apostle explicitly and 
solemnly demands their attention, chal- 
lenges their regard, and reclaims their af^ 
fection. Now, upon what does he found 
these lofty claims ? Upon a fact which, if 
it were not true, and notorious, and abso- 
lutely indisputable, would have exposed 
him to their most marked contempt, to 
their ineffable derision. H6 appeals to the 
miracles which he had himself performed, 
to the powers which he had himself com- 
municated, powers which at the time he 
wrote they actually possessed, which they 
even misapplied, for the misapplication of 
which he severely reprimands them, and 
offers his grave advice concerning their fu- 
ture orderly employment of them. There 
is no escape from the conclusion that these 
powers actually existed in the church, but 

(tfter the Age of the AfosiUsi 473 

one ; and that is a supposition which has 
never yet been made : wliich the hardihood 
of infidelity has never yet ventured to insi* 
nuate : namely, tliat the apostle was insane^ 
that he laboured under a mental hallucina- 
tion, and that his disordered imagination 
suggested scenes which had no real exis- 
tence. This, I say, is a supposition to which 
the most unblushing scepticism has never 
yet had recourse, and it is the only suppo- 
sition upon which the denial of the apostle's 
testimony to the existence of supernatural 
gifts and powers in the primitive church 
can possibly stand. These powers, there- 
fore, did exist in the manner, and to the 
degree stated by the writers of the New 
Testament, and therefore Christ, from 
whom they were derived, is risen from the 
dead, and the christian doctrine is true and 

This is an argument so plain and pal- 
pable, that in order to produce conviction 
it requires only to be fairly stated, and im- 
partially considered by any one who is ca- 
pable of forming a sound judgment of the 

474 Cessation of Miracidaus Powers 

value of historic evidence. That it does 
not universally convince those who profess 
to inquire, must be owing to indolence, in^ 
difference, inattention, or prejudice. Some, 
are determined to give no credit whatever 
to miracles of any kind, and will pay no 
attention to the evidence proposed. Others, 
are willing to take Christianity upon trust, 
but think their time may be better em- 
ployed than in examining minutely into its 
evidence. They have occupations of more 
consequence truly, than to examine into 
the evidence of their immortal hopes. They 
are wise for this world, and they take their 
chance for the world to come. 

Notwithstanding this, I hesitate not to 
assert, that of those who with common ca- 
pacities fairly attend to the argument, it is 
impossible that any individual should re- 
main unconvinced. The evidence is irre- 
sistible. It completely comes up to the 
terms of a late celebrated sceptic, intelli- 
gibly, though not very accurately express- 
ed, namely, ''that it would be a greater, i. e. 
a more incredible miracle, that the evidence 

after the Age of the Apostles. 475 

should be false, than that the miracle should 
be true." 

It is a question of some importance to 
ascertain the time when miraculous powers 
ceased in the church, as the silence of eccle- 
siastical history on the one hand, and the 
pretensions of some communions to the 
continued possession of these powers on the 
other, have given occasion to unbelievers 
to throw out their sarcasms upon Christia- 
nity, and to discredit the existence of chris- 
tian miracles altogether. 

" Since every friend of revelation," says 
the late sceptical historian of the Roman 
empire (with his usual sarcastical sneer), 
" is persuaded of the reality, and every rea- 
sonable man is convinced of the cessation 
of miracles, it is evident there must have 
been some period when they were either 
suddenly or gradually withdrawn from the 
christian church. Whatever era is chosen 
for this purpose, the death of the apostles, 
the conversion of the Roman empire, or the 
extinction of the Arian heresy, the insensi- 
bility of the Christians who lived at that 

476 Cessation of Miraculous Powers 

time will equally afford just matter of sur- 

The church of Rome pretends to the pos- 
session of miraculous powers, even to the 
present day, and upon this ground she pre- 
fers her claim to be the only true catholic 
and apostolic church: and could she make 
good her pretensions, her claim must be al- 
lowed without hesitation. Transubstantia- 
tion, indeed, as it is one of the deepest of 
mysteries, so, if it were possible, it would 
also be one of the greatest of miracles. But 
o prove that a morsel of bread is not trans- 
formed into the body and blood of Christ, 
by the incantation of the priest, is, I trust, 
upon the present occasion, a needless task. 

The prevailing opinion among Protes- 
tants, till the middle of the last century, 
was, that miraculous powers continued in 
the church till the time of Constantine the 
Great, when the empire became christian. 

♦* The gift of casting out devils," says 
archbishopTiJlotson,* "continued the long- 
est of any : and there was reason that it 

* Tillotson's Workg, yoI. iii. p. 488, edit. 1756. 

after the Age of the Apostles. 477 

should continue as long as the devil reigned, 
and pagan idolatry was kept up. But when 
the powers of the world became christian, 
and Satan's kingdom was every where de- 
stroyed, then this miraculous gift also 

The sound understanding of that great 
philosopher and judicious critic, Locke, 
discovered that the miraculous powers of 
the primitive Christians were not continued 
after the apostolic age. For he observes, 
that if they are believed to exist till the 
time of Constantine, there is no reason to 
stop there : for the writers of the succeed- 
ing centuries speak with no less assurance 
of the miracles in their time, than those of 
the second and third centuries : and it 
would be impossible to ascertain the time 
when miraculous powers were withdrawn. 

In the middle of the last century, a man 
of great learning and freedom of thought,-f- 
not previously informed of Mr. Locke'^ 
opinion, undertook to prove that miracu- 
lous powers ceased with the apostolic age. 
t Dr. CoDjen Middkton. 

twenty years. Neith 

vinced. But the impa 

discovered on which 

preponderated. And i 

who made any pretens 

learning, have contend 

ance of miraculous po\» 

tolic age. 

The argument from » 
me to be decisive of tl 
Lord, in the text, says to 
I am with you alway. ev 

of Mca;or/<^ for the words 
translation, but of this agi 

Thatis, till the Jewishoecc 
which it did forty yeare i 

after the Age of the Apostles. 479 

discharge of their ministry, his occasional 
appearances to them, and intercourse with 
them, and especially his presence with them 
by the holy, spirit, by the communicatioa 
of miraculous gifts and powers, which should 
continue with them to the end of that age, 
or dispensation, till the destruction of Jeru- 
salem and the temple, or as long as they 
lived. '* I send," saith he, " the spirit of 
truth, which shall abide with you for ever,'* 
that is, as long as you live. And in confir- 
mation of this interpretation it has beea 
observed, that although we frequently hear 
of our Lord's personal appearance and in- 
tercourse with fhis disciples, antecedent to 
the capture and demolition of Jerusalem 
and the temple, no intercourse of that kind 
has been authentically established since 
that melancholy catastrophe. .. 

It is also observable, smd truly worthy of 
attention, that though many of the primi- 
tive disciples possessed miraculous powers 
in a very high degree, and were said to be 
full of the holy spirit, yet it appears that 
none possessed the power of communicating 

480 Cessation of Miracuhus Powers 

the holy spirit, but the apostles themselyes. 
The church of Rome appears to have beei> 
planted by some eminent and zealousCbris- 
tians who were not themselves apostles, 
perhaps by some who resorted to that great 
metropolis from Judea, who were possessed 
of miraculous powers, which they were 
permitted occasionally to exercise : and it 
is plain that their success was. very consi- 
derable. But the Roman converts did not 
themselves possess these extraordinary pow- 
ers, for the apostle, in writing to the church 
of Rome, expresses his earnest desire to 
visit them, and especially for this cause, 
that he might impart to them some spiritual 
gift: plainly intimating that this was a pri- 
vilege which none but an apostle possessed, 
and thus claiming an authority equal to 
that of the very chief of the apostles,* 

Agreeably to this state of the case, it is 
related of Philip, the deacon and evange- 
list, aw person of great distinction in the 
church, next in order to the apostles, and 
full of the holy spirit, that he went down 
* See Rom. i. 11,18. 

(ifter the Age of the Apostles. 481 

to Samaria, and preached Christ unto them, 
MTorking many signal miracles, in conse- 
quence of which many were converted to 
the faith, and were baptized into the name 
of Jesus : among others, Simon the sorcerer, 
who had imposed upon the multitude by bis 
juggling tricks, was himself converted and 
baptized. But this was all. It was not in 
the power of the evangelist to communicate 
to his new converts the gifts and powers 
which he himself possessed. But for this 
purpose two of the apostles, Peter and John, 
were deputed to visit the Samaritan con- 
verts, and to communicate spiritual gifts to 
them, which they accordingly did, by prayer 
and imposition of hands. 

It being, then, so evident a fact, that the 
apostles only possessed the power of com- 
municating spiritual gifts, it follows, of 
course, that after the decease of the apostles 
the holy spirit was no longer communicated, 
and that after the decease of those persons 
to whom miraculous powers had been im- 
parted by the apostles, these powers would 
of course entirely cease. And this conclu- 

VOL II. 2 I 

482 Cessation of Miraculous Powers 

sion is conBrmed, if not bj^ the testimony, 
at least by the silence of ecclesiastical anti- 
quity : for in the latter part of the first cen- 
tury, and in the beginning of the second, no 
claim is made to the possession of miracu- 
lous powers : though in the latter part of 
the second century, and in all that succeed, 
the pretension was revived, and increased in 
proportion as the number of converts was 
enlarged, and the necessity of mitacles be- 
came less urgent One of the most eminent 
and learned of the christian writers,^ ex- 
pressly states that miracles began with the 
preaching of Christ, that they were multi- 
plied after his ascension, and then again 
decreased, but that even to his days some 
remains of them continued with a few, 
whose souls were cleansed by the word, and 
by a life conformable to it. " They drive 
away devils, they perform many cures, and 
they foresee things to come/' 

From this state of the evidence, it would 
appear hardly to admit a doubt, that mira- 
culous powers ceased with the apostolic 
♦ Origen. 

after the Age of the Apostles. 483 

age: that they no longer existed in the 
church when the apostles, and their imme- 
diate disciples> who received these gifts from 
the apostles, were dead. We have no rea- 
son to believe that the apostles left behind 
them any successors to the power of com- 
municating the gifts of the holy spirit. 

Nevertheless, in the middle of the second 
century, pretensions to miracles began to 
revive, and continued increasing through 
the third and following centuries ; and these 
pretensions have been supported by evi- 
dence which has staggered many persons of 
learning and inquiry, who have been in- 
duced thereby to believe that the power of 
working miracles continued in the church 
for some centuries after the apostolic age : 
and have thus inadvertently furnished a 
plausible pretext for scepticism on the one 
hand, and for superstition on the other. 

Justin Martyr was a Platonic philosopher 
who embraced Christianity, and defended 
the faith with considerable ability. He was 
a man of great integrity, who suffered mar- 
tyrdom at the latter end of the second cen- 
2 I 2 

484 Cessation of MiractUous Powers 

tury- Though a professed philosopher, he 
was a real enthusiast He first introduced 
the doctrine that the logos was a divine per- 
son emanating from God, the delegate df 
the Almighty in the creation and govern- 
ment of the world, and the medium of the 
divine dispensations to the Jewish nation. 
This new doctrine he labours to prove from 
the scriptures of the Old Testament, and he 
is so well satisfied with his grand discovery, 
that he conceives that it must haive been 
revealed to him by inspiration. And truly 
no person who reads his miserable argu- 
ments will ever suspect that he acquired bis 
notions from reasoning, nor will any reader 
of judgment believe, upon the credit of his 
assertions, that his interpretations are in- 
spired. He also attests the contemporary 
existence of miraculous powers, and fre- 
quently appeals to what, he saith, ** every 
one might see in every part of the world, in 
the case of persons possessed with demons, 
who were cured and set free, and the de- * 
mons themselves were baffled, and driven 
away by Christians adjuring them in the 

after the Age of the Apostles. 485 

name of Jesus, 'when all others had tried 
in vain to help them/'* 

Irenaeus flourished some years later than 
Justin. He saith, *' All who are true dis- 
ciples of Christ work miracles in his name, 
for the good of mankind. Some cast out 
demons. Others heal the sick by imposition 
of hands. Even the dead have been raised, 
and lived many years among us/'f 

Tertullian, who wrote in the latter end 
of the second century, challenges the hea- 
then magistrates •* to call before their tri- 
bunal any person possessed with a demon ; 
and if the evil spirit, when adjured by any 
Christian whatever, did not own himself to 
be a demon, as plainly as in oth(er places 
he would call himself a god^ not daring to 
tell a lie to a Christian, that then they 
should t^ke the life of that Christian/':^ 

Many similar testimonies might be cited. 
Notwithstanding which there is great reason 
to believe that these early writers were de- 
luded by false representations, or that they 

* Jintin Martyr, Opp. f Irenei Opp. 

X TertuUian, Opp. 

486 Cessation of Miraculous Bowen 

were greatly mistaken in their judgment 
of facts, and that no miracles were actually 
performed after the apostolic age. 

The early ecclesiastical writers who re- 
late these miracles, do not pretend that 
they were themselves possessed of these 
miraculous powers. And yet it is allowed 
that they were the most eminent men of 
the age in which they lived ; but if they 
were not thus privileged, it is not probable 
that persons of inferior note would be fa- 
voured with gifts which were denied to 
the wisest and the best men of the age. 

Also, many of the early writers express- 
ed themselves in a loose rhetorical maimer, 
and did 'not expect to be understood in a 
strict literal sense. 

Irenseus speaks of raising the dead as a 
miracle which occurred not unfirequently.* 
But he is the only writer who mentions 
this miracle ; and he was certainly mis- 
taken. The heathens sometimes challenged 
the Christians to produce a single person 
who had been raised from the dead^ and 
* Irentti Opp. . 

afUr the Age of the Apostles. 487 

they would become believers. But the 
Christians very prudently declined the chal- 

No pretension is made to the gift of 
tongues, though that was certainly the 
most necessary of the all miraculous powers 
to those who were to preach the gospel in 
foreign parts. 

The miracle, upon which the greatest 
stress is always laid, is that of casting out 
demons. The ancient writers are unani- 
mous in their testimony to these facts ; 
that demons, when adjured in the name of 
Jesus, immediately came out of those who 
were possessed by them; that they dare 
not conceal the truth from a Christian, 
but confessed plainly that they were the 
real objects of popular worship, and under 
the names of Saturn, Jupiter, Apollo, and 
others, the gods of the heathen world. 

But if we call to mind that insane per- 
sons.were« in those days, vulgarly supposed 
to bie possessed by, demons, and that, in 
fact# neither demons, nor devils, had any 
concern in the case, we shall instantly ; see 

488 Cessation of Miraculous Powers 

that all these traditions are erroneous in 
the extreme : or at least, that there was no 
miracle in the case. The poor wretches 
themselves, in the paroxysms of their dis- 
ease, impressed with the jirevailing belief 
of the country, imagined themselves to be 
really possessed, some by one, some by 
seven, and some by a whole legion of de- 
mons. And certainly, when one confessed 
that he was possessed by Apollo, and an- 
other that he was possessed by Saturn, it 
was no proof that the insanity was re- 

Insanity is a very mysterious complaint 
Insane persons often possess great art and 
cunning, and know how to conceal their 
insanity, in many cases, so that it shall be 
very difficult to detect them. It is also 
known, that they who are conversant with 
them, and have the care of them, often ac- 
quire a great ascendancy over them. Now 
there can be no doubt that the christian 
exorcists were very skilful in the manage- 
ment of insane patients, and might, with- 
out niuch difficulty, make themukitude be- 

after the Age of the Apostles. 489 

' lieve that they performed great cures. 
Upon these cases, therefore, no reliance 
whatever is to be placed, and, if these are 
taken away, 4;he remaining claims to mira- 
culous powers will be very much reduced, 
and easil}' defeated. 

Finally. If upon the testimony of the 
writers of the second century, we admit 
the continuance, or rather the revival of 
miraculous powers, we oughts by parity 
of reason, upon the evidence of the writers 
of the third century, which is equally full 
and direct, to allow their existence in the 
third century, and so on to the fourth and 
fifth, nor will it be easy to find where to 
stop. It is best, therefore, to stop at once 
at the period to which we are led by evan- 
gelical testimony, confirmed by the silence 
of christian antiquity, that the apostles had 
no successors to the power of communica- 
ting spiritual gifts, and that of course mi- 
raculous powers ceased at the close of the 
apostolic age. 

A question has been raised, whether any 
miracles have been wrought in favour of 

490 Cessation of Miraculous Powers 

the christian religion, since the age of the 
apostles ; and without the intervention of 
human agency. Some few cases have been 
cited to establish the affirmative. But they 
will not bear critical and impartial investi- 
gation, though the truth of these miracles 
has been warmly defended by many inge- 
nious and learned advocates. 

One of the most remarkable is that of 
the Thundering Legion. This legion con- 
sisted mostly of Christians ; who are said 
by their prayers to have prevailed with the 
Almighty to pour down a torrent of rain 
upon the army of the emperor, Marcus An- 
toninus, which was surrounded by the ene- 
my, and ready to perish by thirst; and, at 
the same time, to discharge upon the enemy 
a terrible tempest of thunder, and lightning, 
and haiU which confounded and alarmed 
them, and caused them to fall an easy ptef 
to the Roman troops. Now, that the em- 
peror'-s army was relieved when in gteat 
distress by a seasonable fall of raib, is by 
no means improbable ; and that the same 
storm might faU more severely upon tb^ 

after the Age of the Apoitles^ 491 

enemy is not unlikely ; and that the Ro- 
ma,ns, taking advantage of the storm^ and 
of the superstitious terrors of their adversa- 
ries, might fall upon them, and defeat them, 
is no way vt^onderful. Nor is it at all ex- 
traordinary that, in a season of drought 
and danger, the Christians in the emperor's 
army might pray for rain ; as the heathen 
troops no doubt -did to their false gods. 
But, though the kindness of divine Provi- 
dence ought justly to be acknowledged 
upon this extraordinary occasion, there is 
no reason to believe that the interposition 
was miraculous.* 

Eusebius relates, upon the authority of 
Constantine the Great himself, that that 
emperor was converted to the christian re- 
ligion by the appearance of a luminous 
cross in the air, with this inscription, *' UN* 


This was, no doubt, an artifice of the em- 
peror to gain the confidence of the Chris- 
tians, who were very numerous in his own 
army, and dishearten those who were en- 
* See Moyle on the Thuodering Legion. 

492 Cessaiian of Miraculous Powen 

listed under the banner of his rival. The 
artifice succeeded. Constantine won, and 
Maxentius lost the battle and the empire. 
Eusebius records the story as he received 
it from the emperor. And the pious bishop 
of Cesarea was much too good a cour- 
tier to call in question an anecdote which 
he had received from the emperor himself. 
The most plausible legend of any that 
has been recorded since the age of the 
apostles, is that of the miracle, which is 
said to have been wrought, to defeat the 
attempt of the emperor Julian tq rebuild 
the temple of Jerusalem. That philoso- 
phic, but superstitious emperor, who had 
once been a professor of Christianity, and a 
reader in the church, but who afterwards 
deserted his profession, and became a bitter 
enemy to the Christian faith, hoped to sub- 
vert the authority of Jesus, by counteract- 
ing his prophecy concerning the utter de- 
solation of Jerusalem ;^ and, to this end, he 
formed a design to rebuild the city and the 
temple, and to restore the splendour of the 
Jewish worship. With this view he in- 

after the Age of the Apostles. 493 

vited Jews to return to their own coun- 
try, and gave directions to one of his prin- 
cipal officers to superintend the rebuilding 
of that magnificent fabric. But, no sooner 
had they begun to prepare the foundation, 
than balls of fire burst out of the ground, 
which burned and destroyed the workmen. 
This dreadful prodigy being repeated as 
oflen as the attempt was renewed, the 
workmen were compelled to desist, and 
the emperor abandoned the undertaking. 

This account does not rest upon the cre- 
dit of c|;iristian writers only, though it 
cannot be denied that they added some 
marvellous circumstances to the tale. The 
fact is related by Ammianus Marcellinus, 
a heathen philosopher, the friend of the^ 
emperor Julian, his companion in the mili- 
tary expedition against the Parthians, and 
the historian of his reign. It has been be. 
lieved by many learned moderns, who have 
thought the evidence quite sufficient to es- 
tablish the fact, that the occasion called for 
a divine interposition to vindicate the cha- 
racter of the great prophet of the church. 

candKl and judicious 1 

that the truth of the \ 

blematicai. There wj 

Julian fell iq the Pai 

succeeded by a chri 

would doubtless have 

work if it had been beg 

to the Divine Being, i 

tinctly foreknown. Jt 

posed, but it is probal 

tually began to rebuil 

could not have afFordec 

being engaged in the 

which he perished. It 

vation that this extraon 

noticed by christian wr: 

temporaries with .TnHai 

after the Age of the Apostles. 495 

not have failed to mention it with triumph. 
And the heatheu historiaji, perhaps, bor- 
rowed his account from rumours., which he 
did not think it necessary, or prudent, 
strictly to examine. And, perhaps, he was 
not indisposed to recommend himself and 
his work to the christian emperors who 
were successors of Julian. Upon the whole, 
therefore, it is highly probable, that the ac- 
count of this famous miracle, though it pos- 
sesses the best pretensions of any, is void of 
foundation, and that no miracle has ever 
been wrought in favour of the christian re- 
velation since the apostolic age. 

There is in the divine religion of Jesus, 
as it is exhibited in the records of the New 
Testament, a simplicity, an energy, a ma- 
jesty, which at once irradiates the under- 
standing and convinces the judgment, which 
captivates and rules the heart. It disdains 
the disgraceful support of fictitious miracles 
and pious frauds. It asks not the continu- 
ance even of those real and splendid dis- 
plays of divine power which were necessary 
to its 6rst introduction. Christianity stands 

496 Cessation of Miraculous Powers, ^. 

alone. Under the protection of Divine Pro- 
vidence it has borne the shock, and wea- 
thered the storms of more than seventeen 
centuries. And it is now more deeply rooted 
than ever. It shall endure and flourish till 
the end of time; and revolving centnries 
shall but add to its beauty and its glory ; 
till, in the end, its branches shall extend 
over the whole earth, and all the nations 
shall he gathered under its shadow. Has- 
ten, O Lord, this glorious period* May 
thy kingdom come ! 


J. M*Cre«ry, Tookt Conrt, 
Chancery Lane. London. 


3 2044 054 747 001